Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!



June, 2016 (4)
May, 2016 (8)
April, 2016 (3)
March, 2016 (9)
February, 2016 (9)
January, 2016 (11)
December, 2015 (7)
November, 2015 (12)
October, 2015 (9)
September, 2015 (13)
August, 2015 (15)
July, 2015 (15)
June, 2015 (14)
May, 2015 (13)
April, 2015 (18)
March, 2015 (17)
February, 2015 (15)
January, 2015 (12)
December, 2014 (12)
November, 2014 (16)
October, 2014 (20)
September, 2014 (17)
August, 2014 (18)
July, 2014 (16)
June, 2014 (18)
May, 2014 (17)
April, 2014 (17)
March, 2014 (17)
February, 2014 (16)
January, 2014 (16)
December, 2013 (11)
November, 2013 (15)
October, 2013 (19)
September, 2013 (20)
August, 2013 (23)
July, 2013 (24)
June, 2013 (14)
May, 2013 (25)
April, 2013 (20)
March, 2013 (24)
February, 2013 (25)
January, 2013 (20)
December, 2012 (19)
November, 2012 (25)
October, 2012 (22)
September, 2012 (24)
August, 2012 (24)
July, 2012 (21)
June, 2012 (22)
May, 2012 (28)
April, 2012 (44)
March, 2012 (36)
February, 2012 (36)
January, 2012 (27)
December, 2011 (22)
November, 2011 (29)
October, 2011 (52)
September, 2011 (26)
August, 2011 (26)
July, 2011 (17)
June, 2011 (31)
May, 2011 (32)
April, 2011 (31)
March, 2011 (31)
February, 2011 (28)
January, 2011 (27)
December, 2010 (34)
November, 2010 (26)
October, 2010 (27)
September, 2010 (27)
August, 2010 (31)
July, 2010 (23)
June, 2010 (30)
May, 2010 (23)
April, 2010 (30)
March, 2010 (30)
February, 2010 (30)
January, 2010 (23)
December, 2009 (19)
November, 2009 (27)
October, 2009 (30)
September, 2009 (25)
August, 2009 (26)
July, 2009 (33)
June, 2009 (32)
May, 2009 (30)
April, 2009 (39)
March, 2009 (35)
February, 2009 (21)
January, 2009 (29)
December, 2008 (15)
November, 2008 (15)
October, 2008 (25)
September, 2008 (30)
August, 2008 (26)
July, 2008 (26)
June, 2008 (22)
May, 2008 (27)
April, 2008 (20)
March, 2008 (20)
February, 2008 (19)
January, 2008 (22)
December, 2007 (21)
November, 2007 (26)
October, 2007 (20)
September, 2007 (17)
August, 2007 (23)
July, 2007 (17)
June, 2007 (13)
May, 2007 (7)



<June 2016>

More Links

# Tuesday, November 10, 2015
5 Tricks for Using Evernote in Your DNA Research
Posted by Diane

This guest post was written by Kerry Scott, blogger at Clue Wagon and author of a new book on the Evernote software and its potential for genealogists, How to Use Evernote for Genealogy.

There are two kinds of genealogists: those who are overwhelmed by their DNA results and those who haven't done DNA testing yet. Seeing that list of hundreds of cousins is exciting, but humbling for even the most skilled family historians. Who are all of these people? How do they fit into your family tree?

Evernote can help you get your arms around all of that data so you can begin to make sense of it. Here are five ways you can start:

  1. Use the Web Clipper to clip trees when you see them. Your cousins matches may make their tree private at some point, so don’t wait if you see something you might need later. Store that information in Evernote, so you can find it again even if it's no longer online. You can clip and save your chromosome browser views as well.

  2. Use tags to track your matches. Whether it's an AncestryDNA username, a GEDmatch kit number, or some other useful tidbit, you can create a tag to make it easier to find it again. It may take months (or years) to figure out how you're connected to a particular cousin, but tags can shorten that process considerably by allowing you to pull together seemingly unrelated clues to find patterns.

  3. Keep your DNA educational materials in Evernote. Any genealogist will tell you that learning how to work with DNA is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember that Evernote is a great place to store the PDFs you have from Family Tree University courses, Family Tree Magazine, blog posts, and other sources. You'll be able to find them easily using Evernote's powerful search feature, so you can re-read sections as they become relevant to your research.

  4. Create a page for each chromosome. The longer you work with your DNA results, the more data you'll gather on which parts of your DNA come from which ancestors. Breaking out your data by chromosome helps you speed this process up. I've learned that a huge chunk of my DNA chromosome 9 comes from one of my Norwegian lines, so when I have new matches on that chromosome, I know where to look first.

  5. Save reports as PDFs, then store them in Evernote. If you've used GEDmatch for any length of time, you know that it's a powerful tool ... except when the site's down and you have a tantalizing clue you can't follow up on. If you run a one-to-many report (the one with the list of your closest matches) once a week or so, you can save it as a PDF. If GEDmatch goes down, you'll still have that report to refer to. Even better, you'll be able to search it in Evernote, which makes it much easier to find a particular kit number, match name, or email address.

The more organized you are, the better you'll be at translating cousin matches into new branches on your family tree. Using Evernote will ensure that you can find what you need—and spot those elusive clues. Learn about more ways Evernote can help your research in How to Use Evernote for Genealogy, available on

Evernote | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 9:47:15 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, October 21, 2015
23andMe Relaunches Health-Related DNA Testing
Posted by Diane

Genetic testing company 23andMe is again offering health-related DNA testing in addition to its ancestry services.

In 2013, the FDA ordered 23andMe to stop offering the health analysis, which informed test-takers about their risks for getting 254 diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer's, diabetes and breast cancer. The company hadn't proven its tests were " analytically or clinically validated," the FDA said.

The new service, launched after negotiations with the FDA, reports on "carrier status" (whether a person carries genes and could pass them on to children) for 36 diseases such as sickle cell anemia and hearing loss. It also includes wellness reports on whether a test-taker could develop traits such as lactose intolerance.

Test-takers also can opt to have their DNA anonymously be part of medical research studies. Ancestry DNA has followed suit with its "Ancestry Human Diversity Project" (which test-takers can—but don't have to—consent to be part of) and AncestryHealth website.

23andMe's ancestry analysis, which is included along with the health results, is unchanged. The price for the company's test has doubled, though, from $99 to $199.

Read more about 23andMe's relaunched health testing on CNN Money and Vox.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, October 21, 2015 2:08:35 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, August 27, 2015
AncestryDNA Adds Shared Matches Tool
Posted by Diane

AncestryDNA has released a new match-viewing tool called Shared Matches. When you look at a match, you can click on the Shared Matches tab to see the other matches (if any) you have in common with that person. It looks like this (I've blurred names and other potential identifying info):

The name of the match I'm viewing is at the top. Below that are the people this person and I both match.

This helps alleviate some of the frustration that comes when your matches have few people in their trees, or don't have public trees linked to their test results. Either situation makes it harder to determine your relationship, and could keep you from being put into a "DNA Circle" with those matches.

But if you can see a list of folks who all genetically match each other, even if your trees don't name the same people, you can look for commonalities in any or all of their trees and begin to narrow down where the match might be.

I'm not in any ancestor circles, but Shared Matches have helped me notice an interesting connection:

I have a match (call her cousin A) whom I already knew is a cousin on my mom's paternal side. But cousin A and I both match a person (cousin B) whose tree has a surname that also belongs to my great-great-grandmother on my dad's maternal line.

Furthermore, cousin B and I both match a cousin C, who's a third cousin on my dad's side through this same great-great-grandmother. But cousin C doesn't appear to match cousin A.

So it looks like cousin B could be related to cousin A through cousin B's other parent (the one not descended from our common ancestor) and cousin A's father's side (cousin A's mom is the one she and I are related through). Can you think of any other scenarios that would explain this?

One quibble with the Shared Matches tool is that it looks like you have to click on each match individually and then click the Shared Matches tab to see if anyone's listed there. I have 28 pages of matches. I can't find a way to filter matches so I see only the ones with shared matches. has a video about Shared Matches here. | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, August 27, 2015 1:17:17 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Thursday, July 16, 2015
AncestryDNA Database Hits 1 Million DNA Profiles
Posted by Diane

AncestryDNA has hit a milestone 1 million autosomal DNA tests performed, an announcement made today in conjunction with the one about AncestryHealth.

That means the company's results database has more than doubled in size over the last year. AncestryDNA joins DNA testing company 23andMe in surpassing the million mark; the latter company did so in April.

Visit the Ancestry Blog for more details and a cute infographic about your chances of finding another Ancestry DNA test taker who's related to you.

If you're one of the million who've tested with AncestryDNA—or you're thinking about taking a test—make sense of your test results and genetic matches with our All About AncestryDNA on-demand webinar, presented by Genetic Genealogist blogger Blaine Bettinger. | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, July 16, 2015 1:36:53 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1] Launches AncestryHealth Family Health History Service
Posted by Diane today announced the launch of AncestryHealth, a new "entity and resource" to provide consumers with health insights to support healthier living.

The first offering is a free service, now in beta, that helps you compile a family health history by starting with your Ancestry member tree. This can help you and your doctor monitor potential health issues.

AncestryHealth also plans to work with institutions to integrate family health history data into electronic medical records.

The company is not yet offering a health-related DNA analysis, but it wants to, according to this Huffington Post article. It'll need FDA approval first, at least for US consumers. (The FDA told competitor 23andMe in 2013 to stop selling its health-related DNA analysis, although 23andMe does provide health reports to Canadians.)

When you sign into AncestryHealth with your login, you can opt to allow what you enter to be anonymously used for medical research. A statement reads "You can choose to join the Research Project, an initiative to find new health patterns and further medical research. Anonymous health information from you and other participants may help scientific researchers uncover health connections and this could lead to new cures, preventions, and treatments for other people in the future." 

Those who test with 23andMe also can opt to participate in research studies, a lucrative business for that company.

Ancestry DNA's database has just reached 1 million DNA profiles, and the linked family trees make the data valuable to the medical research community.

In AncestryHealth, you import your member tree, enter your height, weight and whether you smoke, and select medical conditions that affect your family. Then you select members of your family who've had each type of condition (the options here go back only to grandparents, so I had to skip the conditions I'd already selected that affected earlier generations). The health library of conditions is still being added to; for example, I found hyperthyroidism but not hypothyroidism.

A tree view shows relatives back to your grandparents, and you can click to see the health conditions you've associated with each person. This tree and all the information in it remain private.

You also get a downloadable summary of conditions in your family, and a family health tree like the one shown above with color-coded conditions.  (I just experimented for a few minutes, so your summary tree might be more colorful and informative.)

Cathi A. Petti, MD, will serve as chief health officer for AncestryHealth. Read's full AncestryHealth press release here. | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, July 16, 2015 9:54:47 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, April 15, 2015
My Genetic Genealogy Test Results: What to Do Now?
Posted by Diane

I finally took a DNA test, not only to learn more about my family history but also to build my background knowledge for Family Tree Magazine's genetic genealogy coverage.

These are my ethnicity results for my Ancestry DNA test (which was provided in a press kit for TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?"):

Thanks to Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard's article in the forthcoming July/August 2015 Family Tree Magazine, I'm not totally taken aback by these results. For example, people with German ancestry (that's me) often get results with Scandinavian heritage, even when they don't have ancestors from Scandinavia (also me).

My paternal great-grandparents were Lebanese, which probably explains the 28 percent Italy/Greece (I don't have ancestors from Italy or Greece) and the West Asian trace regions. DNA from my Irish third-great-grandparents and English fourth-great-grandparents is reflected in my Irish and British percentages.

These percentages are interesting, but not extremely helpful when it comes to genealogy research. Genetic matches are the most useful part of genetic genealogy results—if you know how to use them. I'm finding out I could use some help there.

I'm not in any DNA Circles, nor do I have any Ancestor Discoveries. A couple of matches I already knew are cousins. A couple others have trees with surnames that also are in my tree, so I can guess how we're related. But the vast majority of my matches, mostly categorized as distant cousins, either don't have an online tree, have a private tree (I'm not upset about this—I understand that plenty of folks do genealogy for themselves, not because they want to share their trees with the world), or have a public tree but no names in common with mine.

I'll randomly click through trees of matches in that last group, looking for places that also appear in my tree. I might note that a person has ancestors from Germany or Ohio or Indiana. I've emailed two or three matches (I haven't heard back). So my DNA experience has been anticlimactic so far.

There has to be a better, more-organized way.

Has your testing experience been similar to mine? Are you unsure what to do now that you have your genetic genealogy results? Or are you still thinking about DNA testing, but you want to get the most out of your results?

Our next Family Tree University weeklong workshop is for you (and me): Genetic Genealogy Bootcamp runs April 20-27, and includes six video classes (which are yours to watch whenever you want, even after the workshop is over), exclusive workshop message board discussions, and advice from genetic genealogy expert and the Genetic Genealogist blogger Blaine Bettinger.

Take a look at the Genetic Genealogy Bootcamp program at Family Tree

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, April 15, 2015 1:33:20 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Thursday, April 02, 2015
Ancestry DNA Introduces New Ancestor Discoveries for Genetic Genealogy Tests
Posted by Diane

Ancestry DNA, the genetic genealogy arm of, has launched New Ancestor Discoveries, a still-in-beta feature that can use your DNA matches to show you who your ancestors were.

The feature builds on DNA Circles, announced late last year, which creates circles of genetically matching individuals who also have matching people in their Ancestry member trees.

What happens is this:
  • You take a DNA test with Ancestry DNA.
  • In six to eight weeks, you receive a notification that your results are available, and you go into your account to view them.
  • On your results page, you see the faces of ancestral people who aren't in your Ancestry member tree (if you have one), but who are in the trees of other testers whom you match:

  • You click on an ancestral person, and see a window like this, with basic information about the person and the DNA Circle that links you to this person:

  • If you click the green "Learn About" link, and you also are an subscriber, you can see a Lifestory for the person, compiled from the person's profiles in multiple public member trees on This page is accessible only through the DNA Circle or New Ancestor Discovery experience, and includes photos, records and life events about the person. It looks like this:

  • If you click the gray "See how you are related" link, you see an illustration of the circle, highlighting the individuals you match and how those matches are related to the ancestral person. The thicker the orange line, the stronger your genetic connection to a person. This is an updated presentation of DNA Circle information; you can use the tab to see a list view of circle members.

An update to DNA Circles is that they now include anyone in your tree, not just those in your direct ancestral lines. For example, if your third-great-granduncle is in your Ancestry member tree and you're genetically related to members of his circle, you'll be included in his circle even though you don't descend from him.

Read more about New Ancestor Discoveries and watch a video demo on the blog.

You can read's press release about New Ancestor Discoveries here. | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, April 02, 2015 9:40:08 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Wednesday, November 19, 2014
New Ancestry DNA Launch: "DNA Circles" of Matching Individuals
Posted by Diane

Ancestry DNA—the genetic genealogy services arm of—is launching major new updates for its customers today. I'll save what I think is the most interesting one for second:  

Improved matching
The number of tests that Ancestry DNA has processed—about 500,000—has allowed it to create a new algorithm to determine your matches. Customers will now see higher-quality matches and, for most people, a smaller list of matches as the lower-quality ones drop off. In the online demonstration I saw last week, Ancestry DNA Senior Product Manager Kenny Freestone said his own match list went from more than 100 pages of matches to 36 pages.

You'll still see the notes and stars you've added to the matches who stay on your list. For the time being, you can download your old match list, including any notes you added, via a link on the View All DNA Matches screen.

A link in the top corner will let you access help content including an article that explains your match "confidence score" (for example, a "very high" confidence level means it is very likely that you and your match share an ancestor within five or six generations).

Also here, a  white paper that explains matching in technical detail, including a process called "phasing." Freestone said Ancestry DNA is the only major testing company that performs this complicated, expensive process, which determines whether parts of DNA called SNPs came from the mother or the father. (See a more thorough description of phasing here.)

DNA Circles
This update, in beta right now, is potentially extremely helpful to genealogy researchers. Ancestry DNA will create DNA Circles—clusters of test-takers who all match the same ancestral individual. Each person in a circle matches at least one other person in the circle and has the same ancestral individual in his or public Ancestry Member Tree.

Circles will be constantly updated as DNA customers add and change family trees, and new people test.

Circle members can see a list of everyone in the circle, the confidence level of the person's membership in the circle, and how each person is related to the ancestral individual genetically and on his or her tree. Members can link to each tree to view the information and records they contain.

DNA Circles help customers put their DNA test results to work solving family mysteries—explaining how genetically matched people are related, leading to new relatives and verifying traditional research. 

To be in and view a DNA Circle, you must:
  • be an Ancestry DNA customer
  • have an member tree that's set as public (because your membership in a DNA Circle gives others access to your tree)
  • subscribe to
Here's what DNA Circles look like. William Gray is the ancestral individual at the center of this DNA Circle:

Circle members can see a list of other members:

This comparison shows two members of the William Gray DNA Circle (Kenny Freestone and L.S.) and how they're related to William—making Kenny and LS second cousins once removed. In this case, they're not a DNA match, which, due to the way DNA recombines over generations, isn't unexpected.

These updates will take effect automatically—no need to upgrade or take a new test. Ancestry DNA customers will receive an email message about the changes today. | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 12:31:12 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Tips & Resources for DNA Testing in Your Genealogy Research
Posted by Diane's announcement about soon-to-come improved matching for AncestryDNA autosomal tests—in part because of the half-million results in the AncestryDNA database—is another sign of DNA's increasing popularity as a genealogy research tool.

If you've tested with AncestryDNA, your matches will be updated automatically, and for free. Your list of matches will probably shrink, as the more-distant ones drop off. Learn more about the upcoming improvements on the blog.

For those who haven't yet ventured into genetic genealogy, and for those who have (whether with AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, 23andme or another company) but are staring at their results and asking "now what?," these tips and resources can help:
  •  Y-DNA tests can tell you about matches along male lines (your father's father's father and so on). Mitochondrial DNA tests can tell you about your maternal lines (mother's mother's mother's ... ); but because this type of DNA mutates so infrequently, it's hard to tell if a match is related to you through a recent or more-distant ancestor.
  • Autosomal DNA can contain genetic material from people in any branch of your family tree, making autosomal tests a useful tool for a broader array of research questions than using Y-DNA or mtDNA alone. But remember that back beyond about your great-grandparents, not all your ancestors are reflected in your autosomal DNA. There's no test (yet) that can tell you which part of your autosomal DNA came from which ancestor.
  • A "triangulation" strategy can help you narrow the DNA profile from a particular ancestor. In our "Using Genetic Genealogy to Find Family History Answers" guide, Blaine Bettinger gave the example of a woman named Helen who was adopted as a baby and died without knowing her biological parents. Helen had a son and a daughter, each of whom also had children. A grandchild from each offspring took autosomal DNA tests. That way, a match to both grandchildren would have to be related through Helen or her husband. If only one grandchild or grandchildren who were siblings took a test, a match might be related through the other parent—not Helen's line.

    See more examples of how DNA testing can help you answer research questions in our on-demand webinar Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries.
  • Be prepared for a genetic genealogy test to uncover surprises in your family tree. One man's parents divorced after he gave them DNA tests as gifts, and a match to his dad turned out to be a son no one knew about.

Genetic Genealogy | Research Tips
Wednesday, November 05, 2014 3:15:41 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, October 01, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Traces Family Trees of Athletes Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King, Rebecca Lobo
Posted by Diane

Titled "Born Champions," last night's episode of "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." examined the ancestries of recently retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (above, during the show), tennis legend Billie Jean King and WNBA star Rebecca Lobo.

Throughout the show, Gates emphasized how past generations' character and decisions may have contributed to their descendants' success.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter was on a kind of surname roller coaster when he first learned that the last name he's carried all his life came from a slaveowner, then learned that the slaveowner was his third-great-grandfather—so he had a genetic connection to his name, after all. (Our African-American Slave Genealogy Guide can help you research your own black ancestors before the end of slavery.)

Gates pointed out how common it is for black Americans to have European ancestry. It's not hard to see why, under an institution that gave one person absolute power over another. DNA testing of Jeter and known descendants of the slaveowner confirmed the relationship.

Jeter said during the show that he thought he was Black and Irish. (Note: This is updated. I originally thought I heard him say "Black Irish," and a reader corrected me.) It turned out Jeter has a female ancestor from Ireland, whom the show mentioned in passing, and she married an Englishman.

Billie Jean King
King's "Gammy," her dad's mom, was adopted as a baby. An aunt had a family Bible that recorded Gammy's birth name, enabling Gates' team to find her birth record and learn Gammy's mother's name.

King's DNA test revealed no American Indian heritage, squashing King's mother's closely held belief that her family line included Seminole Indians.

Rebecca Lobo
Lobo has Spanish heritage on her father's side. Her great-grandmother Amelia Gutierrez left a diary, which a cousin had, that told how her father Antonio escaped to Tangier after fighting to establish the first Spanish republic in 1873. When the family decided to emigrate in 1896, they arrived too late to catch their ship to Argentina, so they went to North America instead. (Find a guide to research in Spain, Portugal and the Basque region in our December 2011 Family Tree Magazine.)

Her DNA test revealed that she had just over 10 percent Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, which Gates said suggests a great-grandparent (based on the fact that you inherit approximately 12.5 percent of your autosomal DNA from each great-grandparent). Then through chromosome analysis, the research team could learn which of Lobos' grandmothers contributed the Jewish DNA. Because there was no paper evidence of Jewish ancestry for that grandmother's mother, Gates said it's likely that the father—as yet unidentified—was Jewish.

I tell you what, I could really use a message or two from a sponsor in this show. As irritating as commercial interruptions can be, it's hard to keep up (or go switch the laundry) when you don't have any breaks.  

You can watch the full "Finding Your Roots" episode with Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo online.

Here, you can read genetic genealogy consultant CeCe Moore's post about the DNA testing done for last week's "Finding Your Roots" episode—including more on that loose end regarding the identity of Courtney Vance's grandfather.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, October 01, 2014 10:50:54 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, September 24, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Episode 1 Focuses on Fathers' Family Histories
Posted by Diane

Last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." tied together the family histories of three well-known Americans—author Stephen King and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney Vance—with the theme of fathers. Missing fathers, to be more specific.

All three lost their fathers before they could learn anything about their history. King was 2 when his father walked out; Reuben's father died when she was 12; and Vance was 30 when he lost his father to suicide.

The message that hit home for me, which I think is the message that host Henry Louis Gates wanted to get across, is that some empty part of you is filled when you can discover these missing parts of your family's past. King said you "see that there's a foundation underneath you."

Last night's surprises for the three guests included:
  • King's father, who joined the Navy after abandoning his family, changed his last name at some point from Pollack to King. The show's researchers could find no legal record of a name change, though—he just started using the new name as a young man.
  • King was surprised to learn he had Southern roots; his ancestors moved North and served for the Union during the Civil War.
  • The show's researchers also were able to identify her earliest African ancestor in the Western Hemisphere, who was transported as a slave via the Middle Passage. Gates pointed out how hard this is to do, a dream for many African-American genealogists.
  • Courtney Vance's father grew up in foster care. Vance learned the identity of his father's mother, as well as some painful aspects of her life.
  • Through Y-DNA testing of himself and a male-line descendant of the minister his grandmother had named as the father of her child, Vance learned that the minister was not the father. More importantly, the test identified a Y-DNA match—a relative along Vance's paternal line. With further research in that man's family tree, Vance could possibly learn who his grandfather was. I wonder if the show's researchers attempted this and for some reason it didn't make the show? Talk about loose ends.

    If you want to use DNA to solve family mysteries, you can learn how in our Genetic Genealogy 101 Family Tree University online course and our Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries webinar.
The full "In Search of Our Fathers" episode is available to view on the "Finding Your Roots" website. The show will air on most PBS stations on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, September 24, 2014 10:58:05 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, September 22, 2014
Genealogy TV: "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr" Premieres Tomorrow
Posted by Diane

Clear your calendars and set your DVRs tomorrow night (Sept. 23) to watch the premiere of "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr." at 8 p.m. Eastern on PBS.

In this series, Harvard African-American history professor, author and documentary filmmaker Henry Louis Gates escorts well-known Americans on a journey into their family history. Each episode features three guests whose family histories share " an intimate, sometimes hidden link."

Tomorrow's premiere reveals the family histories of author Stephen King and actors Gloria Reuben and Courtney B. Vance. Here's a quick preview:

Other guests on this season's 10 episodes include
  • actors Ben Affleck, Anna Deavere Smith, Khandi Alexander, Angela Basset, Tina Fey and Sally Field
  • journalists Anderson Cooper and George Stephanopolous
  • authors Deepak Chokra and David Sedaris
  • athletes Billie Jean King (tennis), Derek Jeter (baseball) and Rebecca Lobo (basketball)
  • musicians Nas, Carole King and Sting
  • filmmaker Ken Burns
  • civil rights activist Benjamin Todd Jealous
  • chefs Aaron Sanchez, Ming Tsai and Tom Colicchio
  • presidential adviser Valerie B. Jarrett
  • playwright Tony Kushner
  • civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz
  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick provides funding for the show along with other businesses and foundations. The Your Genetic Genealogist blogger CeCe Moore serves as genetic genealogy consultant.

On the Finding Your Roots website, you can read profiles of the show's guests; read blogs by Gates and the show's researchers and producerssubmit stories from your family history research (as well as reading others' stories); and watch full episodes from Season 1.

To tide you over until tomorrow, see how Henry Louis Gates Jr. answered Family Tree Magazine's inquisitive "5 Questions" reporter.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, September 22, 2014 10:08:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, August 08, 2014
Genealogy News Corral:August 4-8
Posted by Diane

  • Kids getting ready to go back to school also means the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) annual conference is nearly here. The 2014 genealogy confab is Aug. 27-30 in San Antonio, Texas, and Family Tree Magazine will be there in booth 2019 with free issues plus books, CDs, cheat sheets and subscriptions for sale. I hope to see you there!

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, August 08, 2014 10:48:42 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, August 01, 2014
AncestryDNA Improves Cousin Matching
Posted by Diane

AncestryDNA customers will soon see better cousin matches to their genetic genealogy test results.

All AncestryDNA customers to some extent, but especially Jewish and Hispanic customers, have been getting false cousin matches. Matches for Jewish and Hispanic testers seemingly would indicate they're cousins with everyone else of the same ethnicity.

In today's announcement,'s DNA team explains why these false matches can happen. All humans are genetically 99 percent identical, so there are two reasons that two people might have identical DNA:
  • IDB: the DNA is Identical By Descent, meaning the two people it belongs to are related
  • IDS: the DNA is Identical By State, indicating that the two people it belongs to are simply of the same ethnicity or are both human
Apparently it can be difficult it can be to tease out the DNA segments that are IDB from those that are IDS, but AncestryDNA has developed a new way to analyze results that can tell the difference.

In the coming months, according to the release, "all customers will see increased accuracy of their DNA matches, and significantly fewer 'false' matches." Existing customers will receive an email when their new matches are ready.

Read more about AncestryDNA's improved cousin matching feature on the blog. | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, August 01, 2014 2:01:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Retirement Date Extended for, MyCanvas, Mundia, Ancestry DNA and mtDNA
Posted by Diane

Due to recent site outages during's recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack two weeks ago, the company has pushed back the shutdown dates for, MyCanvas,  Mundia, and Y-DNA and mtDNA: These sites will now be available until Sept. 30, 2014, instead of the originally announced Sept. 5.

During the DDoS attack, users of the to-be-retired services couldn't get into the sites to retrieve their data.

Here's another retirement-related update: To the disappointment of some Y-DNA and mtDNA customers, will not release DNA samples submitted for those tests, and will destroy those samples (or perhaps already has done so).  On's blog, Senior Vice President and General Manager for DNA says that "the legal framework used to collect these samples does not allow us to retest or transfer those samples." He adds that many of the samples are no longer usable. See the full explanation here. | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, July 01, 2014 11:28:46 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, June 27, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: June 23-27
Posted by Diane

  • In happier news, the Arkansas History Commission will relaunch its online digital archive with new collections, including maps, postcards, WWI materials and state constitutions. More material will be added, too, including Civil War documents and oral history interviews with veterans of World War II and the Korean War. The online archive will be available through the Arkansas History Commission website.
  • FamilySearch this week announced the online publication of its one billionth historical record image at the free website. It took seven years to reach the one billion mark; FamilySearch Records Division director Rod DeGiulio estimates the next billion record images will be published within three to five years. Read more about this milestone on the FamilySearch blog.

FamilySearch | Genetic Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Friday, June 27, 2014 9:51:49 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, May 02, 2014
Genealogy News Corral: April 28-May 2
Posted by Diane

  • has added The Collection  which details the crimes of thousands of boys admitted to three institutions for children in West Yorkshire, England. The records, which date between 1779 and 1914, also contain information on nearly 400,000 adult offenders. You can find them in separate collections of reformatory school records, prison records and police records.
  • The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is seeking genealogy bloggers, societies, writers and editors to be ambassadors for its 2014 conference, happening Aug. 27-30 in San Antonio, Texas. You can see the requirements and benefits, and register, on the FGS conference website. | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | MyHeritage | UK and Irish roots
Friday, May 02, 2014 10:30:21 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, April 25, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, April 21-25
Posted by Diane

  • The Ohio Historical Society (OHS), which also serves as the state archives for my home state of Ohio, is changing its name to the Ohio History Connection as of May 24. The society's research found that many people interpret the name as exclusive and antiquated. Besides the state archives, OHS runs the Ohio Memory website and 58 museums and historical sites across the state. It's also undertaking a newspaper digitization project. Read more about the name change here.
  • FamilySearch has added more than 10.7 million images of records from Australia, Brazil, England, France, Italy, Peru, Spain and the United States. You can see the list of updated collections here. Remember that if a collection has a 0 in the "Indexed Records" column, you'll need to browse those records instead of searching. Click on the collection title to get to the page where you can browse or search it.

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, April 25, 2014 2:08:44 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, March 18, 2014
New Genealogy Webinars: Make Evernote Effortless & Using DNA To Solve Family Mysteries
Posted by Diane

I wanted to make sure you know about two webinar learning opportunities we have coming up, on using Evernote for family history and on genetic genealogy:


The first one, this Thursday, is Making Evernote Effortless with Lisa Louise Cooke. An expert on using Evernote to organize research and streamline workflow, Lisa will talk about
  • creating source citations in Evernote
  • accessing your Evernote notes faster with tools like shortcuts and quick keys
  • setting reminders
  • sharing notes
  • hacking the mobile version to add the web clipper to your tablet's web browser

You'll learn how to use Evernote to stop researching haphazardly and start organizing your approach and your findings. Click here to register.

Next Thursday, March 27, we have Using DNA To Solve Family Mysteries with the Genetic Genealogist blogger, Blaine Bettinger. He'll help you
  • understand more about genetic genealogy
  • figure out which test to take to solve which types of research problems
  • how to interpret your test results
Blaine has written on genetic genealogy for Family Tree Magazine, and I have to say he's a very good explainer of things—great at turning complicated genetic genealogy information into concepts my brain can wrap itself around.

Click here to find out more and register.

Genealogy Apps | Genetic Genealogy | Webinars
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 1:37:54 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 28, 2014
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 24-28
Posted by Diane

  • The free family tree website WikiTree has teamed up with author A.J. Jacobs to find cousin connections for the Global Family Reunion, to be held June 6, 2015, in Queens, NY. The "megareunion" will be the subject of Jacobs' next book as well as a documentary. It's open to the public, and attendees with a proven relationship to Jacobs get a bracelet and will be in a photo. To learn more about the reunion, go here. To find out more about helping WikiTree research those relationships, register for WikiTree, and then go here.
  • Fficiency Software has announced a new search technology called Family Relationship Searching, available through its subscription family tree website. The company says the technology will help you quickly find an ancestor in the site's database without wading through so many false matches. To search, you enter information about your ancestor and his or her person's family members. You also can specify exact or phonetically similar spelling. Visit here.

Civil War | Family Reunions | Genealogy Apps | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, February 28, 2014 2:39:26 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, October 18, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Oct. 14-18
Posted by Diane

  • The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors has opened its 2014 Excellence in Writing competition. Entries are due by June 15, 2014. Both members and nonmembers, published and unpublished, can enter to win cash prizes. Entries must fall into one of six categories—see them here.  For additional details and entry instructions, download the entrant packet here.
  • The AncestryDNA updates previewed to 6,000 AncestryDNA customers in September are now available to everyone who's tested with The updates offer a more-detailed ethnic heritage analysis, including for African ancestry, a redesigned user interface, and a database of results from more than 200,000 customers. There's no additional cost for those who've tested with; a new DNA test costs $99. Read more on the blog. | FamilySearch | Genetic Genealogy | saving and sharing family history
Friday, October 18, 2013 12:54:50 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, September 16, 2013
Can Your DNA Reveal Where Your Ancestors Came From?
Posted by Diane

One of the caveats of genetic genealogy testing has been that you get only a general idea of where in the world your roots are, such as "British Isles," "Scandinavian" or "West African." (Labels and specificity vary with the testing company and the test you choose.) And the ethnicity estimates you do get can have a significant margin of error.

That could be changing. "The AncestryDNA science team is looking toward a future where we could reveal, in the absence of a family tree, the most probable locations where one’s ancestors lived," writes population geneticist Julie Granka on AncestryDNA's Tech Roots blog.

About 6,000 AncestryDNA customers received a preview last week of a new ethnicity estimate that more-accurately calculates the person's ethnicity based on 26 reference populations around the world.  (The new, finer-resolution estimate works with a customer's existing results, so no new testing is needed.)

Granka's post reveals one example of the more-specific analysis: Her team has been able to separate ancestry from West Africa into six population groups based on genetic data. 

Previously, someone with African-American ancestry might learn they have genetic origins somewhere within the green bubble on the left (this image is from the Tech Roots blog, and used with permission). The new analysis can narrow those roots to one of the six colored bubbles on the right.

Those new ethnicity regions of West Africa are Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast/Ghana, Benin/Togo, Nigeria, and Cameroon/Congo, each of which has a distinct set of tribal affiliations.

West Africa was the main source of the slave trade to America. This finding provides a new genealogy research path for African-Americans who've been unable to find records of enslaved ancestors.

Here's another example of the ethnicity estimate update:On the Genetic Genealogist blog, Blaine Bettinger shows you a comparison of his old and new AncestryDNA estimates.

You'll know you're one of the lucky 6,000 AncestryDNA customers if you see an orange button that says "New! Ethnicity estimate preview" on your DNA results page. AncestryDNA will roll out the new ethnicity estimate to remaining customers over the next few months.

Bettinger recently presented our Intro to DNA Crash Course webinar to help you figure out how to use genetic genealogy to uncover your family history and get over research brick walls. Check out the webinar in | Genetic Genealogy | Webinars
Monday, September 16, 2013 10:42:34 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, August 02, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, July 29-Aug. 2
Posted by Diane

  • WikiTree, a free family tree wiki, has added a new feature that helps you determine how genetic genealogy could aid your research. It can be difficult to figure out which test will best answer your genealogical question, and which relatives need to take the test. Now on WikiTree, you can choose a commercially available DNA test from a dropdown menu, and the wiki shows you which ancestors you can learn about from taking that test. The feature highlights when a genealogical puzzle could be solved by taking a test, which test would help, and who should take it. See the press release about WikiTree's new DNA feature here.
  • FamilySearch has added more than 1.1 million index records and record images to the free record search at They come from Belgium, Nicaragua, Spain and the United States. Those with North Carolina ancestors will be particularly pleased to see searchable estate files and marriages from that state. I also thought the US National register of Scientific and Technical Personnel Files (1954-1970) looked interesting, though I didn't find any relatives in it.

    You can link to FamilySearch's new and updated databases from here.

Cemeteries | FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Friday, August 02, 2013 2:21:17 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, May 10, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, May 6-10
Posted by Diane

  • FamilySearch has added more than 9.4 million index records and images this week from the United States, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Italy, Peru, Sweden and Venezuela. They include data from BillionGraves (search results link you to to see an image of the tombstone), Michigan death certificates (1921-1952), New York, Southern District US District Court naturalizations (1824-1946), and more.
You can search or browse (in the case of unindexed record images) these records for free on Link through to each collection from here
  • Get a new take on your Irish Famine-era ancestors with's new online Famine Memorial. Launched to coincide with the National Famine Commemoration 2013 in Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland, the memorial gathers record collections—emigration, census, newspaper, criminal and land records, as well as directories—that highlight aspects of Irish life that were affected during the Great Irish Famine (1845-1852).

    You'll need to be a subscriber or use credits to view records, but the memorial also provides interesting background information about the famine that anyone can view.
  • Family Tree DNA announced it has lowered the price of its mid-level maternal line mtDNA test, called mtDNAPlus, to $49. This two-thirds price reduction was made possible by a new squencing technique. The company also has lowered the price of its 12-marker Y-DNA test to $49. Order either test here.

Celebrity Roots | FamilySearch | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Friday, May 10, 2013 12:49:18 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, April 19, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, April 15-19
Posted by Diane

Version 7 also lets you use the sites Record Matching service, which automatically searches MyHeritage collections and trees for your ancestors (you'll need a subscription to view some results). Other updates include a more graphical look and support for 40 languages, including Chinese and Korean. Read more details on the MyHeritage blog.
  • There's a new database of burials at Hart Island, the public burial ground ("potter's field") for New York City. The earliest recorded burial there dates to May 1881; however, the database covers burials since 1977.
  • A new PBS series called "Genealogy Roadshow" is looking for people with family history mysteries to be on the show. Check out the casting call here; the deadline is May 12.
  • Heredis is having a sale through April 28 on its family tree software for PC (37 percent off, at $24.99) and Mac (33 percent off, at $39.99). Find out more about the software at the Heredis website.

Cemeteries | Genealogy Software | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, April 19, 2013 2:41:25 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Intro to Genetic Genealogy Testing Crash Course
Posted by Diane

Is a DNA test the answer to your genealogy prayers or a waste of money? Well, it depends on the test you take and how you use the results. Blaine Bettinger, aka The Genetic Genealogist, will help you understand how to use genetic genealogy as part of your family history research in our Intro to DNA Crash Course webinar on April 25.

If you've:
  • considered taking a DNA ancestry test
  • been overwhelmed by the options for genetic genealogy tests to take and testing companies to use
  • wondered about the differences among Y-DNA, mtDNA and autosomal tests
  • thought that genetic genealogy probably isn't worth it for your research, anyway
  • taken a test and been unsure what to do with your results
... this webinar is for you.

Participants in the Intro to DNA Crash Course webinar will be able to ask their genetic genealogy questions in a Q&A session during the webinar. They'll get a copy of the webinar slides, access to watch the webinar again as often as desired, and our genetic-genealogy guide Research Strategies: Going Beyond Surnames.

Here are the webinar details:
  • Date: Thursday, April 25
  • Starting time: 7pm EST/6pm CST/5pm MST/4pm PST
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Price: $49.99 (sign up by April 18 to save $10!)
Register for the Intro to DNA Crash Course webinar here.

Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, April 09, 2013 2:11:28 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, April 05, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, April 1-5
Posted by Diane

  • FamilySearch has added 23.9 million indexed records and images to the free, with new browsable image collections from Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, England, Italy, Mexico and the United States. Notable collection updates include the 19.2 million document images from the new collection United Kingdom, WWI Service Records 1914-1920; 2 million index records from the collection US WWI Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918; and almost the 931,000 index records from the collection US New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1925-1942. Search or browse these databases from the chart here.

  • In case you missed it (and were wondering), Irish genealogy research company Eneclann has researched Tom Cruise’s roots. The actor's real last name is Mapother, but Cruise actually is a family name. His great-grandfather, born in 1876 to Mary Pauline Russell Cruise and her second husband Thomas O’Mara, took the surname of his half-siblings and thus became Thomas Cruise Mapother I. Read more and download a copy of the family tree here.

Celebrity Roots | FamilySearch | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | German roots | Military records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, April 05, 2013 1:44:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 22, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 18-22
Posted by Diane

  • has opened its AncestryDNA test to all US residents. From last May until now, the test was open just to subscribers. This autosomal test analyzes more than 700,000 DNA marker locations and cross-references them with's catalog of DNA samples.

    The AncestryDNA test also breaks down your ethnic heritage by percentage from 20 populations. See the September 2012 Family Tree Magazine for The Genetic Genealogist blogger Blaine Bettinger's take on the AncestryDNA test.
  • Planning that long-awaited trip to the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City? Take note that the library will change its Saturday hours in April. Beginning April 13, the FHL's Saturday operating hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (current Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.).  “This change is being made so that valuable staff and volunteer resources can be allocated to other busier times during the week that have greater patron demand,” says library director Don Anderson. | FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | Libraries and Archives
Friday, February 22, 2013 1:49:29 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 08, 2013
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 4-8
Posted by Diane

  • PBS has gathered its African-American history content into one place to help you celebrate Black History Month. Watch programs including Freedom Riders and Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr., take a quiz about miletones in African-American history, get ideas for celebrating the month with kids and more.
  • Know a young genealogist who could use $500 toward genealogy education, plus a free registration to attend the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree? Applications are being accepted for the 2013 Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant, created to honor the mother of The Family Curator blogger Denise Levenick. It's open to any genealogist who is between the ages of 18 and 25 and has attended school in the last 12 months. The recipient must attend the 2013 Jamboree in Burbank, Calif., to receive the award. Application deadline is March 18, 2013, at midnight PST. Learn more here.
  • is giving its registered users the opportunity to watch the BBC show Find My Past, which reveals how ordinary individuals are related to people from significant historical events.  With a free registration, you can watch episodes that first aired during the past 30 days. Thereafter, episodes will be available to the sites subscribing members. Learn more on
Also new in's World subscription is a collection of 200 British newspapers from England, Scotland and Wales from 1700 to 1950.

African-American roots | Genealogy for kids | Genetic Genealogy | MyHeritage | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Friday, February 08, 2013 3:04:28 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, September 18, 2012
New, Free Family Tree Magazine Podcast: Tips for Diagnosing Sick Genealogy Sources and More!
Posted by Diane

Our September 2012 Family Tree Magazine Podcast is available (and free!) for your listening enjoyment!

Host Lisa Louise Cooke (also of the Genealogy Gems Podcast) and guests including Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, FamilyTreeDNA President Bennett Greenspan and  Family Tree University instructor Charlotte Bocage share research tips on
  • preventing "sick" sources in your family tree
  • documenting genealogy sources
  • using DNA testing in your genealogy research
Plus, you'll get news from the genealogy blogosphere and hear what's coming up next from Family Tree Magazine.

Listen to the Family Tree Magazine Podcast in iTunes or on Visit for the show notes, too.

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Genetic Genealogy | Podcasts | Research Tips
Tuesday, September 18, 2012 10:12:52 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, July 12, 2012 Acquisition Means Changes at GeneTree and
Posted by Diane

GeneTree, the genetic genealogy and family tree building site acquired earlier this year, will close. Customers received e-mail notification to download DNA results and pedigree before Jan. 1, 2013. 

An FAQ page on contains instructions for customers to download information from GeneTree and, if they want, upload it to (you can opt for a free guest account instead of a paid subscription).

If you've ordered a test from GeneTree or have questions about transferring your information to, see this FAQ page on

As part of the deal, also acquired the DNA assets of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, which has collected DNA results and associated family tree data for 12 years. The Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA results databases on the  website will no longer be updated, but they'll continue to be available.

From the statement:

SMGF has decided that AncestryDNA? is better positioned to provide the benefit to the public that is central to SMGF's mission. For this reason, SMGF's DNA-related assets were acquired by AncestryDNA in March 2012. SMGF is very excited to join AncestryDNA , and we are confident that the pioneering work begun at SMGF will continue to grow and have an even greater impact on the future scientific understanding and public outreach of genetic genealogy. | Genealogy Industry | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, July 12, 2012 2:56:41 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, June 08, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, June 4-8
Posted by Diane

Read our article about the Ellis Island Hospital Complex on
  • Genetic genealogy company 23andMe, exhibiting at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree this weekend, announced it'll release four new genealogical features for beta testing in the coming weeks. Those are family tree building on the site; Ancestry Painting, which breaks down your ancestry based on approximately 20 world regions; the My Ancestry Page, a "dashboard" summary of your ancestry; and the Relative Finder Map View plotting where in the world your matches are.
Learn more about these upcoming features on 23andMe's Spittoon blog.

Cemeteries | Free Databases | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Historic preservation | Social History
Friday, June 08, 2012 1:55:58 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, May 25, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, May 21-25
Posted by Diane

  • updated its collection of U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls. This collection, which contains records from 1798 to 1958, now contains more than 39 million records. They include muster rolls (regular lists of those present in a given unit), unit diaries and personnel rosters.
  • The National Archives at San Francisco has officially opened to the public more than 40,000 Alien Files or A-Files on immigrants to the United States. The case files were originally created at immigration offices in San Francisco; Honolulu; Reno, Nevada; Agana, Guam; American Samoa and other US territories. The records were transferred to the National Archives from US Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2009. Millions more A-files will eventually be opened to the public—the files are closed for 100 years after the birth date of the person named in the records.
A-Files created at other immigration offices are kept at the National Archives facility in Kansas City, where 300,000 cases were opened to the public in 2010. 
  • A DNA study of Melungeons—a dark-skinned, mixed-heritage group historically residing in Appalachia—has found genetic evidence that these families descend from sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin. Researchers think the population mixing could have happened among black and white indentured servants in mid-1600s Virginia.
According to an Associated Press article, the finding has been controversial among Melungeons, some of whom believe they have Portuguese or American Indian ancestry. Read more about the findings (and how researchers thinks the claims of Portuguese heritage arose) in this news article. | Genetic Genealogy | immigration records | Military records | NARA
Friday, May 25, 2012 1:21:29 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, May 03, 2012 Introduces New AncestryDNA Service
Posted by Diane announced the launch of AncestryDNA, a new DNA test the company bills as an affordable way to combine DNA science with's family history resources and a global database of DNA samples.

The analysis cross-references your DNA information with test results from people around the globe (drawn from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation's database) to help you learn more about your ethnic background and find distant cousins. When there's a genetic match in's DNA database, your tree will automatically be compared to that person's.

In this guest blog post, genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger, who tried out the new autosomal DNA test, sheds more light on what's special about it.

The new service comes after a year of planning and beta testing, says president and CEO Tim Sullivan. “We think AncestryDNA has created a unique and engaging experience that will provide existing subscribers with an entirely new way to make amazing discoveries about their family history."

AncestryDNA is currently available by invitation only to subscribers for $99. The service should become available to the public later this year.

You can sign up to be notified once that happens at | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, May 03, 2012 2:57:34 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, April 30, 2012
"Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.": Using DNA to Research Ancestors in Slavery
Posted by Diane

Researching enslaved ancestors was the theme of last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr."

All three of the show's guests—Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University; Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, and now on the faculty at Stanford University; and actor Samuel L. Jackson—grew up under segregation. Simmons' parents were sharecroppers; as a child she picked cotton alongside her brothers and couldn't attend school regularly until the family moved to Houston.

Condoleeza Rice was the only one of the three I knew much about, and I admire her for achieving such success despite living in a system designed to prevent her from believing that kind of achievement was possible.

All three also have family stories about white ancestors in their family tree, and identifying them was the focus of the episode.

The show showed some research in genealogical records, but concentrated on using genetic genealogy testing in confirming relationships. For each guest, a potential white cousin was tested.

In the case of Simmons, the test confirmed a relationship, and she and her brothers met the descendants of the man who owned the father of their great-grandmother Flossie.

Each guest—along with high school students participating in the Continuum Project—also took an admixture test, which evaluates percentages of African-American, European and Asian/American Indian heritage along either the Y-DNA line (for a man) or the mitochondrial DNA line (for a woman).

Some tests also can compare an African-American's DNA to that of members of African tribes that were the source of the slave trade, estimating what tribe the person's ancestors in that Y-DNA or mtDNA line came from.

You can watch the show online to see all the test results. Also check the Your Genetic Genealogist blog for a post with more details about the DNA testing in this episode.

My sense is that it's not so much which African tribe a person might be from, but just being able to say that they're from a particular tribe. I feel a certain pride and sense of belonging when I can tell people my ancestors came from Germany, Syria, England and Ireland, and that's missing for people descended from slaves.

African-American roots | Celebrity Roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, April 30, 2012 11:02:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, April 09, 2012 to Release AncestryDNA Autosomal DNA Test
Posted by Diane

Before the 1940 census came out, genealogists on Facebook were buzzing about a new DNA test has been teasing but hasn't yet released.

Blaine Bettinger, who shares his expertise on on using genetic genealogy for family history research on his The Genetic Genealogist blog, tried out the new test for Family Tree Magazine. In this guest post, he explains what it can do for your family tree:

With each year, it seems, genealogists get new tools for examining their family trees. 2012 has already given us the 1940 census to spend countless hours with, and now plans to launch a new autosomal DNA test, AncestryDNA, later this year.

Autosomal DNA tests examine thousands of locations throughout your genome, and that information is used to estimate the percentage of the genome that's derived from regions around the world (called "admixture"). Test results also can help you identify genetic cousins by comparing your DNA to all other DNA in the company’s database.

AncestryDNA offers both admixture and matching, which they call “Genetic Ethnicity” and “Member DNA Matches:”

  • Genetic Ethnicity: This calculation is based on roughly 22 populations around the world from proprietary and public databases, with more likely to be added.

  • Member DNA Matches: This tool shows the individuals with whom you share DNA through a common ancestor. You also receive an estimate of the predicted relationship range (such as third cousin, fourth cousin). This tool also offers what I believe is the most interesting aspect of the AncestryDNA test: the automatic comparison of matches’ family trees.

    In other words, if John Doe and I share DNA, AncestryDNA will compare my family tree to his (if he has a public tree on to determine whether any surnames or even individuals overlap. If there are overlaps, both users will be notified.

    As someone who's spent many hours comparing family trees looking for common ancestors with genetic cousins, I believe this tool will prove to be very useful.

AncestryDNA is currently in beta and isn't yet available for purchase. No pricing information is available yet.

Disclaimer: This information is based on the beta version of the AncestryDNA test. Accordingly, results and features are subject to change before the full launch of the test. Further, I received a complimentary test from in order to evaluate the product. | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, April 09, 2012 9:59:16 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Henry Louis Gates Genealogy Show Premieres March 25
Posted by Diane

The new genealogy series Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr. premieres on PBS March 25.

Gates, a Harvard history professor who's hosted previous genealogy shows for PBS including African-American Lives and Faces of America, will explore the roots of 24 well-known Americans including Harry Connick Jr., Barbara Walters, Kevin Bacon, Condoleezza Rice, Sanjay Gupta and Martha Stewart.

Here's the twist that makes this show different: Each episode will feature a pair of celebrities "bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link." DNA testing takes over where paper trails leave off.

The staff of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and Johni Cerny, co-author of The Source: Guidebook for American Genealogy, contributed research to the series.

You can watch several clips on the show's website, including this extended preview:

Watch Extended Preview on PBS. See more from Finding Your Roots.

Celebrity Roots | Genetic Genealogy | Videos
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 7:51:12 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, February 17, 2012
Genealogy News Corral, Feb. 13-17
Posted by Diane

  • has added new records including FamilySearch community trees dating back to around 1500, and 1930 census images (the majority of the 1930 census images are now available, with more images from this plus the 1920 and 1920 censuses coming online over the next several weeks).
The additions bring the count of records available on to more than 2 billion.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | | census records | FamilySearch | Genetic Genealogy | MyHeritage | Public Records
Friday, February 17, 2012 12:43:32 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, February 03, 2012
GeneTree Introduces New Test, Consultation Service
Posted by Diane

Genetic genealogy company has introduced a new consultation service and test for getting in-depth genealogical information from your DNA.

The Family Consultation Service (starting at $49.99) is an in-depth examination of your genealogical data and DNA test results. It's designed for avid genealogists using DNA testing to identify ancestors in specific family lines.

Similarly, the Y-19 test ($94.99) is intended for those who've already done some DNA testing and know their haplogroups. "These 19 [markers] are very fast-mutating markers," says GeneTree CEO Scott Woodward.

That makes them useful for identifying more-specific family relationships, especially when several members of a family group have been tested.

The test is best used in association with a consultation, says Woodward. "Many genealogists don't know how to get the most out of the interpretation. For instance, there is a lot you can learn by one single little mutation that two people share. There are a lot of people who need someone to look at their genealogical DNA data and tell them what it means."

If you're at RootsTech, is offering free 10-minute genetic genealogy consultations.

We're joining in the RootsTech excitement with conference specials for everyone! You'll get 20 percent off select online genealogy titles at

Genetic Genealogy | RootsTech
Friday, February 03, 2012 2:55:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [11]
# Thursday, January 05, 2012
Genealogy News Corral Catch-up
Posted by Diane

Happy 2012 to you! It was a nice holiday lull, but now it's time to ease back into the swing of things. Here's a roundup of some genealogy headlines to get things started:
  • PBS' Winter-Spring 2012 lineup includes a 10-episode celebrity genealogy series called "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." premiering Sunday, March 25 at 8 p.m.
Gates will delve into the genealogy and genetics of famous Americans including Kevin Bacon, Robert Downey, Jr., Branford Marsalis, John Legend, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters and Rick Warren. The show's website is here, though is hasn't yet been fleshed out with any content.
  • A few updates to the genealogy web search engine You can now upload files to your account using Dropbox; just follow these instructions on the blog. Also, if you log in before you search, you can mark off search results you've already looked at with an "I've Read This" button, and you can rank matches as “The Person I’m Looking For," “Maybe A Good Match," “Not Who I’m Looking For” and “Broken Link.”
Finally, the site has introduced Mocavo Plus, an advanced version the site's developer says will get you more-relevant matches with features such as wild card searching, date-range searching, GeoSearching (in the US) and more. Subscriptions cost $9.95 per month or $79.95 (a sale price) per year.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration has launched "Know Your Records" online videos from the popular genealogy how-to workshops hosted at its facilities on topics such as such as census, immigration and military records. Catch the videos on the archives' YouTube channel.
  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) announced its schedule of upcoming workshops at its Boston research library. If you'll be in the area, you can learn about the library's resources, local history, researching African-American ancestors and more (NEHGS also is organizing a research trip to Belfast in May). Check out the schedule on the website.
  • Genetic testing site 23andme, which provides test-takers with medical- and ancestry-related analyses, has generated some controversy in changing site policies. Now, those who let their 12-month subscriptions lapse will lose access to their Relative Finder matches, Health Reports and other features that rely on their genetic data. They'll still have access to the raw data. Read more about the controversy on the Your Genetic Genealogist blog.

Celebrity Roots | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Industry | Genealogy societies | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | NARA | Videos
Thursday, January 05, 2012 9:42:06 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 28, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, Nov. 21-25
Posted by Diane

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Here's a special Monday edition of our weekly news roundup:
  •, the Irish website that introduced earlier this year, has added a feature that lets you build your family tree on the site for free (you’ll need to register for a free account with the site). According to the announcement, it’s the first step in the site’s development of a fully integrated family tree program where you can store photos and historical information. | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | UK and Irish roots
Monday, November 28, 2011 12:15:58 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, October 28, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, Oct. 24-28
Posted by Diane

  • The Genealogists for Families project, coordinated by genealogists Judy Webster and Joan Miller, uses the microfunding website to make small loans to those in need around the world. Borrowers use the funds for businesses that support their families, for example, a man in Rwanda used a Kiva loan to buy raw materials to expand his carpentry business. So far, Genealogists for Families has made 61 loans totaling $1,525. To get involved, sign up with Kiva. You can lend as little as $25. As the loan is repaid, you can lend to someone else.
  • The Genealogical Society of Ireland and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland are working together on a DNA project to learn more about the Irish population. Coordinators will collect DNA samples and genealogical information from participants. Participants won't receive results unless important health information is discovered. You'll find more details in this article on

Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | Military records | UK and Irish roots
Friday, October 28, 2011 4:22:51 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, October 25, 2011
DNA, Land Records & More in Our Free October Podcast
Posted by Diane

The free October Family Tree Magazine Podcast is now available for your genealogy edification in iTunes and on

In this episode, you’ll hear

... and more genealogy news and tips.

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Genetic Genealogy | Land records | Podcasts | Research Tips
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 11:52:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, October 07, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, October 3-7
Posted by Diane

  • New records on FamilySearch this week include five million civil registration images from the Philippines from 1945 to 1980, plus records from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Italy and Spain.
US additions include Sebastian County, Ark., births and deaths; San Mateo County, Calif. Italian cemetery records; Florida Confederate veterans and widows pension applications; Clark County, Idaho, records; Indiana marriages; North Carolina estate files; Columbia County, Ore., records; and Utah probate records. Remember that not all collections are indexed yet, so you may need to browse record images by date or place.

Go here to see details on the additions and link to each updated collection.

  • This one’s for anyone who has worn or is planning to wear a wedding gown: The Wedding Gown Project is sponsoring a writing competition for stories about buying, making, fitting, wearing, storing or passing down your wedding dress. The deadline is Nov. 30, and three cash prizes will be awarded. Author and documentarian Donna Guthrie will compile the stories for a documentary in 2012. See The for entry details.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" | FamilySearch | Genetic Genealogy | saving and sharing family history
Friday, October 07, 2011 1:02:18 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, September 02, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, August 29-September 2
Posted by Diane

  • The Family History Library (FHL) is starting to roll out online microfilm ordering in the United States and Canada, meaning you soon won’t have to visit a FamilySearch Center to order microfilmed records (you’ll still need to go in person to view them, of course). First, you’ll find the film you need in the FHL online catalog, then you'll order it here. California, the Pacific Northwest and other points West were first to get online ordering, with the rest of us still to be added in phases.
  • UK subscription genealogy site is adding a million 20th-century merchant navy seamen records (Britain’s Merchant Navy Day, is Saturday, Sept. 3). The records name crew members of UK merchant ships from 1918 to 1941, offer physical descriptions and include photos.
  • As an update to our November 2011 online newspapers article, which highlighted the subscription website Paper of Record in addition to other online sources, Rick Crume gave me a heads up about some improvements to the site: First, highlighting of your search terms has been restored on the digitized newspaper pages in your search results. Second, you now have the option to search a broader date range than five years within a single title.

FamilySearch | Genetic Genealogy | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Friday, September 02, 2011 10:34:42 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [11]
# Friday, August 05, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, August 1-5
Posted by Diane

  • Genealogist Michael Hait has started the Ancestry Errors Wiki to keep track of the site’s “errors in imaging, programming or organization.” For example, one contributor noted that on, “In the 1840 U. S. federal census, the city of Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, is incorrectly listed in Edmonson County, Ky.”

You can search the wiki or use a drop-down menu to find errors by state. Have you discovered such an error? Click here for instructions on adding a page to the wiki.

  • now includes UK Railway Employment Records, 1833 – 1963, a collection containing the employment-related records of British railway workers dating back to the early 19th century. These records from the British national archives give employee names, home station, date of birth, information on their career progression, salary increases, rewards, conduct, and notes from superiors. Search the database here
But less than 1 percent of Egypt’s modern-day residents belong to this haplogroup, according to iGENEA, and it’s unknown how King Tut’s ancestors got to Egypt. The company is hoping its search for King Tut’s closest living male relatives will lead to an answer. If you order a test from iGENEA and match King Tut on 16 markers, the site promises your money back and a free upgrade. 
  • The 31st annual International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) conference starts next Sunday, Aug. 14, in Washington, DC. Online registration is closed, but you can register on-site. Click here for more information | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Jewish roots
Friday, August 05, 2011 1:06:05 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Friday, April 15, 2011
Genealogy News Corral, April 11-15
Posted by Diane

From April 10 to 24, digital content provider Gale is celebrating National Library Week by providing free access to several resources. Those include the NewsVault (more than 10 million pages from historical newspapers and periodicals) and Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive (antebellum newspaper articles and books focused on slavery). Usually, you must use Gale databases via libraries that subscribe to them, but you can search the databases directly during this free access period

It’s DNA Day! Today only (Friday, April 15), genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA is offering a promotional code you can use to get a discount on several types of DNA tests. See FamilyTreeDNA’s Facebook page for details.

Family Tree University professor Tim Pinnick sent us a note that he’s moderating the new African-American-American Newspapers forum on the Afrigeneas website. Stop by to ask questions and share your finds from Black newspapers

FamilySearch announced this week that it’s released 500,000 new US county marriage records, as well as records from Costa Rica, England, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Spain, in the Historical Records Search. Click here to see the list of the updated collections. (Look for our guide to the new website in the September 2011 Family Tree Magazine.)

Subscription genealogy site Archives just announced the addition of 3.5 million new US vital records to the website, including the obituary index from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio (also searchable here). Other updated collections come from Texas, Kentucky, Maine, South Carolina, Arizona, South Carolina and Colorado.

iArchives, the records digitization arm of subscription site Footnote, announced plans to collaborate with the Federation of Genealogical Societies to digitize 180,000 War of 1812 pension applications. They’ll eventually be available on Footnote. Read more details on the FGS Voice blog.

FamilySearch | Footnote | Free Databases | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | Military records | Newspapers
Friday, April 15, 2011 9:52:35 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, October 15, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: Oct. 11-15
Posted by Diane

We’ve got a host of announcements in this week’s roundup:
  • BackupMyTree, the free genealogy file back-up service that debuted last month, has added support for Reunion for Mac. Although the BackupMyTree software still works with only Windows, users of any operating system can manually upload files—now including Reunion files—through their web browser. Next week, BackupMyTree will add support for The Master Genealogist software, as well as a feature that allows users to include and exclude files in bulk.
  • Genetic genealogy testing company GeneTree is offering two new services designed to help you maximize your genetic genealogy testing efforts. If you buy a DNA Makeover report ($14.95), GeneTree staff will translate your Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA results from another lab into a GeneTree profile. For the Family Tree Diagnostic Service (also $14.95), a GeneTree consultant will review your family tree to find relatives you should consider having tested and what tests they should take to help you achieve your research objectives.
  • Leland Meitzler, organizer of the Salt Lake Christmas Tour annual research trip to Salt Lake City, announced that genealogy technology and social networking expert Thomas MacEntee will present eight classes during this year’s tour. A few topics are Building a Research Toolbox, Facebook for Genealogists, Build a Genealogy Blog, and Twitter: It Isn’t Just “What I Had For Breakfast” Anymore. The tour takes place Dec. 5 through 11, and you can register here
  • The Pennsylvania State Archives will close from Monday, Oct. 18 through Feb. 3 of next year for renovations. The $250,000 project will expand and modernize the lobby and public research areas. (Plans are still in place, though, to eventually replace the facility, which has water leaks and lacks environmental controls and fire suppression system.) Staff will continue to respond to telephone, e-mail and postal inquiries during the closure. You can download the press release as a PDF from the archives’ website. | census records | Genealogy Events | Genealogy Software | Genetic Genealogy | Libraries and Archives | Webinars
Friday, October 15, 2010 3:39:31 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, June 17, 2010
4 Genealogical Questions You Always Wanted to Ask ...
Posted by Diane

While hosting the Family Tree Magazine Podcast, Lisa Louise Cooke has discovered answers to some burning genealogical questions. She shares them in this post:
As I continue my trek down Family Tree Magazine Podcast memory lane, I’m struck by how many talented and knowledgeable people I’ve had the good fortune to interview. Even better, I get to ask those questions that are on all of our minds:
  • How did the DeadFred photo-reunion website get its name? 

  • Can you get copies of materials from the Library of Congress (LOC) without being there in person? 

  • If I get my DNA tested, does that mean the FBI can look at my profile and compare it to criminal cases?

  • How many DNA markers should I have tested?
Inquiring minds want to know, and on the Family Tree Magazine Podcast, I do my best every month to find out!
In the July 2009 podcast episode, founder Joe Bott spilled the beans behind that wacky website name. “Sometimes you need a hook to get people’s attention!” he said. He came up with the name while looking at an old photograph of the deceased Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.

That catchy name coined back in 1998 has lured thousands of people to post their mystery photographs, resulting in over 1,500 photos being reunited with their families in the past 10 years. Bottom line: DeadFred works! (Learn more about online photo sharing in our Photo Sharing 101 webinar recording.)
The question about getting copies of LOC materials was front and center in my mind after I heard James Sweeny, an LOC reference services librarian for 20-plus years, reveal some impressive stats:
  • The LOC is the largest library in the world.

  • It has more than 60,000 genealogies from around the world.

  • It has 20 million cataloged books.

  • Its unmatched US city directory collection covers 1,200 cities, towns and counties across the country.

  • The library building  has 20 reading rooms.
In the September 2009 podcast episode, Sweeny encourages listeners to check out the LOC website and use the “Ask the Librarian” feature. It turns out that staff will make a limited number of complimentary (yes, free!) copies and mail them to you. This is great when you need to check a book's index or look up a surname in a hard-to-find city directory. If you need a lot of copies, you can arrange the service for a fee without ever leaving home. 
Another little-known fact about the LOC's mostly non-circulating collection:  Many of its genealogies and local histories are also available on microfilm, which does circulate to your local library. Again, check the online catalog and ask a librarian for more information.
And finally, Dusty Rhoades of DNA testing service and social networking site GeneTree answers that nagging question about DNA testing and criminal cases in the November 2009 podcast episode.
“Genealogy DNA testing can’t tie you to the scene of a crime,” says Rhoades. That's because genetic genealogy tests and forensic DNA tests look at different parts of the chromosome.
Another common question is “how many markers should I test?” Rhoads recommends between 33 and 46. Testing only 12 markers can lead to false positives. And though a connection may appear strong with 33 markers, testing 46 markers may show it’s not as strong as it looks. 
And of course, when it comes to DNA, it’s a case of the more the merrier.
“The more people who get involved, the easier it is for us to find you matches” says Rhoades. (Find more genetic genealogy answers in the December 2009 Family Tree Magazine's Complete Guide to Genetic Genealogy.)
When it comes to questions, the Family Tree Magazine Podcast has answers!  And because it’s pre-recorded, you can find the answers today and well into the future. Got a burning genealogical question you'd like to hear about in the podcast? E-mail it to us!

Family Tree Magazine's Podcast

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Libraries and Archives | Photos | Podcasts
Thursday, June 17, 2010 9:18:43 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, May 13, 2010
Walgreens Cancels Plans to Sell DNA Test
Posted by Diane

Walgreens drug stores canceled plans to sell a genetic testing kit because the FDA hasn’t reviewed it.

After Pathway Genomics announced this week that its Insight Saliva Collection Kit would be sold at Walgreens, the FDA told Pathway Genomics that the kit meets the definition of a device and is subject to FDA approval.

Though it's been discussed on genealogy websites, the test kit isn't a genetic genealogy test. Instead, it's meant to assess medical conditions and risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. (Pathway Genomics also sells ancestry testing kits on its website.)

The kit was to cost $20 at Walgreens. Then you’d send your sample to Pathway Genomics and pick which tests you want (Drug Response, Pre-pregnancy Planning and other Health Conditions) at a cost of up to $249.

The kit is raising concerns about people getting medical information without input from their doctors. Similar testing is available by mail from companies including 23andMe and DNATraits (part of Family Tree DNA).

Read more about this story here.

Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, May 13, 2010 9:44:29 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, April 28, 2010
NGS Conference News
Posted by Diane

We’re hearing that 2,500 people were preregistered for the National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference, going on now through Saturday at the Salt Palace convention center in Salt Lake City. From the rush in the exhibit hall when the doors opened this morning, that seems about right.

Now for some news from the conference:

This morning in the opening session, the National Genealogical Society announced that its 2012 conference will be in our own stomping grounds, Cincinnati. Research opportunities will include the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, one of the country’s best public library genealogy collections.

Also during that session, FamilySearch International announced today that it has posted an additional 300 million names to its database collections, include those from sources not previously available online. The names are on a FamilySearch beta site, which is similar to the Record Search Pilot site but has an expanded search form. Read the full announcement here.

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) today announced its genetic genealogy database of test results has surpassed 100,000 DNA samples, linked with corresponding family pedigree charts from the submitters. You can read an article about the milestone here and search the database at the SMGF site (it’s free, but registration is required).

UK family history website will take over FamilyLink’s WorldVitalRecords Australasian website. The subscription website will relaunch next month as  Initially, it’ll provide mostly Australian and New Zealand content from Gould Genealogy and History books and CDs; eventually, content and features will be added.

The New England chapter of the Association for Professional Genealogists (NE-APG) announced it’s offering a DVD of two genealogy lectures from expert Tom Jones: "Correlating Sources, Information and Evidence to Solve Genealogical Problems" and "Writing Genealogy. " It covers how to interpret and analyze your research—putting it all together and using a variety of records to build a case for what your ancestors were up to. See a full description on the NEAPG website. You don’t purchase this DVD online, but you can download an order form to print out and send in. 

FamilySearch | Genealogy Events | Genealogy societies | Genetic Genealogy | International Genealogy
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 11:55:39 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 31, 2010
New GeneTree Research Services Help You Understand DNA Results
Posted by Diane

Genetic genealogy company GeneTree is offering new research services to help you make the best use of DNA testing in your family history search.

In addition to ordering a mitochondrial DNA or Y-DNA test, you can access two levels of service:
  • a $49.95, one-hour self-service consultation to help you understand your DNA test results and work up a plan for using them in your search—for example, which relative to test next for comparison. GeneTree CEO Jeff Wells compares this to “teaching people how to fish.”
  • a full-service report, in which GeneTree staff will analyze your DNA results, use the company's resources to find genetic matches, and analyze pedigrees of potential relatives for family connections. The consultant also will use other, non-GeneTree resources. The cost is $49.95 per hour, with a five-hour minimum.
GeneTree resources include the databases of its parent, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, which has been gathering DNA data coupled with pedigree charts for years.  The relationship "enables GeneTree to combine sophisticated DNA analysis with traditional genealogical research to provide our customers with the most complete picture of human identity available anywhere in the world," Wells says.

See descriptions of GeneTree’s new services on its website.

In addition, GeneTree's redesigned website features more educational information including DNA tutorials, explanations of mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA and a Live Chat option.

What Wells calls a “reorientation” comes after his observation of customers’ experiences. “After I came on as CEO last summer, I went to conferences and talked to people about GeneTree experience,” he says. “I asked ‘What do you do with test results?’”

He found that many people were confused by DNA test results and how to use them. “Although we were providing a great products I like the idea of drilling down into the research and helping people not be confused by process,” Wells says.

The full-service approach is becoming more popular among genealogy companies. In 2007, African DNA launched to couple African-American family history research services with genetic testing, and started its Expert Connect service last year.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, March 31, 2010 9:09:06 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Genetic Genealogy: Oh, the Possibilities
Posted by Diane

Interest in genetic genealogy was expanding beyond genealogy circles by April 2006, when this week’s “Best of Family Tree Magazine” article was published. Colleen Fitzpatrick shared an example of how DNA testing can help you theorize how and where your family may have migrated.

Though not everyone’s looking to trace their roots back to the Vikings, I like this example because it shows some of the possibilities of genetic genealogy—a field where scientists continue to make door-opening discoveries for family historians.
Follow genetic fingerprints to new theories. DNA can point to a previously unrecognized episode in your family's past. “Oddball” test results sometimes signal nonpaternity events (adoptions, name changes, illegitimacies), which can link you with unexpected people and places.

Take my Fitzpatrick surname study. Although the DNA profiles (haplotypes) are relatively diverse, most of the 75 participants match one another on 20 or so markers out of 26. This shows that we share a common background—it's just far back in the past. Three people don't fit that mold, however: They match the rest of the group on no more than seven markers.

Two of these three men—a Catholic priest from New Jersey and a retired engineer from New South Wales, Australia—match each other exactly. And they've traced their families back to two small towns only 10 miles apart on the west coast of Ireland. The American's Fitzpatrick family immigrated during the Great Famine; the Australian's Fitzpatrick ancestors went “down under” in the early 1900s. How could these men match each other exactly but be so different from the rest of the Fitzpatrick study group?

Our questioning has led to some interesting theories, developed from what we know about the history of western Ireland. One potential explanation is that the men descend from a Viking who made a pit stop on his way around coastal Ireland, leaving behind a genetic souvenir. Another possibility: The pair descends from a survivor of the Spanish Armada's 1588 wreck on the west coast of Ireland.

As online databases grow to include a more diverse collection of haplotypes, we may find more matches to these men. If they match an Erikson or a Peterson, we can further probe the first possibility. If they match a Lopez or Garcia, we can explore the second theory. Or we may devise altogether new theories. But whatever we discover, they'll have a fascinating new chapter to add to their family sagas.
Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the entire article online.

Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, March 03, 2010 12:20:10 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Family Tree DNA Introduces "Family Finder" Test
Posted by Diane

Genetic genealogy company Family Tree DNA is launching a new DNA test called Family Finder that’ll let you connect with family members across all ancestral lines.

While Y-DNA tests match men with a specific paternal line and mitochondrial DNA tests finds potential relatives along only the maternal line, Family Finder—an autosomal DNA test—can look for close relationships along all ancestral lines.

But rather than simply helping you confirm potential relationships with specific individuals, Family Finder is intended to match you with new relatives. Test results include a list of matching people in Family Tree DNA’s databases.

Men and women can take the test and match the results to male and female cousins from any of their family lines in the past five generations.

Family Finder is available now to current Family Tree DNA clients for $249, and will be offered to everyone in mid-March. Family Tree DNA CEO Bennett Greenspan called the new test the company’s “most exciting genetic genealogy breakthrough” since launching its Y-DNA test.

Read more about Family Finder on Family Tree DNA's website.

Related Resources from Family Tree Magazine:

See our DNA category for articles—both free and Plus—on using genetic genealogy in your family history research. (PS: Family Tree Magazine isn't affiliated with Family Tree DNA.)

Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:55:02 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Series Explores "What Made America?" Through Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., whose "African-American Lives" series have been popular on PBS, is working on another genealogy documentary series to air in February and March.

"Faces of America" uses genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 11 famous Americans, using their ancestors’ experiences to draw a picture of American history.

"The many stories [Gates] uncovers—of displacement and homecoming, of material success and dispossession, of assimilation and discrimination—illuminate the American experience," states PBS' announcement.

Four episodes look progressively further back in history. They cover America’s complicated relationship with new immigrants in the 20th century, the “Century of Immigration” and industrialization from the 1820s to 1924 (the year quotas sharply curtailed US immigration), the early settlement of the New World, and how DNA evidence links us to early geographical origins.

The ancestral origins of the show's "cast” span the globe. Gates researches the family trees of poet Elizabeth Alexander (she composed and read the poem at President Obama’s inauguration), chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, writer Malcolm Gladwell, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, film director Mike Nichols, Queen Noor of Jordan, actresses Eva Longoria Parker and Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

The series airs 8 to 9 pm Wednesdays from Feb. 10 to March 3, but you can catch a few glimpses now:

See more "Faces of America" clips on PBS’ YouTube channel.

Celebrity Roots | Genealogy Events | Genetic Genealogy | Social History
Wednesday, January 06, 2010 2:01:43 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Friday, October 30, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: October 26-30
Posted by Diane

Here are some genealogy news bits we've rounded up for you this week. Happy Halloween!
  • Familybuilder DNA has added Groups, a feature that let customers collaborate on genetic genealogy research. They’ll be able to create and join groups focusing on commonalities such as haplogroup, national origin, surname, birthplace, etc. read more on

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Newspapers | UK and Irish roots
Friday, October 30, 2009 2:48:23 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 26, 2009
DNA Tests in Ghana May Shed Light on African-American Origins
Posted by Diane

The Center for African-American Genealogical Research, Inc. (CAAGI), genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA, and the Public Records and Archives Administration Deartment of Ghana (PRAAD) are embarking on a project that may improve the ability of DNA tests to estimate African-Americans’ origins in Africa.

DNA tests designed to analyze origins in Africa often lead to more questions than answers because relatively little is known about the diverse genetics of African tribes. The tested person’s DNA is compared against a database of modern Africans' DNA—but because of historical migration in Africa, the DNA of a given area’s modern residents may not match its original inhabitants.

Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast), located in Western Africa, was the source of an estimated million-plus African slaves. FamilyTreeDNA will test several hundred members of the Nzema, Ga, Fante, Ewe and Asante tribes, all of which were part of the slave trade.

The DNA will be gathered at a workshop CAAGI is conducting this Friday at the PRAAD offices in Accra, Ghana, as part of its Sankofa project to use traditional genealogical sources and DNA to reconnect African families. Attendees will learn about online genealogy databases, preservation of song lyrics and photographs, transcription of family stories, and forensic genealogy.
Ghana was once a UK colony where British, Dutch and Danish merchants traded. PRAAD has a Slave Trade Archives project with microfilm on Danish activities in Ghana from 1658 to 1850; some of the film is digitized online.

Addition: Bennett Greenspan, president of FamilyTreeDNA, provided a bit more information on this project.

Greenspan believes the results, which should be available in three to four months, will “absolutely” help improve analysis of African-Americans’ origins in genetic genealogy tests.

“The results of this outreach will be to both increase the size of the FamilyTreeDNA/ comparative databases and the results will also be added to the permanent Hammer collection at the University of Arizona, who will publish on the results of these and other outreach missions to Africa," Greenspan says. "In that way, the data will be published and available to all researchers of Africa.”

The University of Arizona's Hammer Lab is managed by Michael Hammer, FamilyTreeDNA's chief scientist. is the African-American genealogy research firm of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.

African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, October 26, 2009 12:33:47 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, October 23, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: October 19-23
Posted by Diane

Here are some of the week's genealogy news tidbits:
  • We wrote about ethical wills (last statements concerning personal values rather than property) in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine. (Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the article here.)
Ready to get started on one? Personal historian Dan Curtis is offering a free, seven-part online course on writing an ethical will for your heirs.
Discover more resources for Chinese genealogy in these Genealogy Insider posts.
  • The new Amelia Earhart movie is getting tepid reviews (from what I’ve seen, anyway), but the real-life details of her 1937 disappearance might be more interesting.’s "Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad" collection contains a case file of correspondence concerning an investigation into the theory that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were imprisoned in Saipan. Find out more about the case on’s blog and on's “What really happened to Amerlia Earhart?” page.
  • Genetic genealogy company DNA Consultants has added a blog to its revamped website; posts review news and research on dna testing and popular genetics. That involves some complex scientific terms and concepts, so put on your genetic genealogist hat when you visit.

Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Events | Genetic Genealogy | Social History
Friday, October 23, 2009 4:08:48 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, October 20, 2009
10 Ways to Use Your December 2009 Family Tree Magazine
Posted by Diane

The December 2009 Family Tree Magazine should be hitting subscribers’ mailboxes during the next week (yes, it’s already December in Magazine Land). I randomly picked out 10 ways this issue might figure into your family history pursuit:

1. Start a family medical history with nine sources that can help you learn what illnesses your ancestors suffered and died from. (See, I thought I’d start this post on a bright note.) Click here for our online listing of health history books and Web sites

2. And for a slightly morbid yet somewhat educational five-minute time-killer, try to match up 12 archaic maladies with their modern equivalents.

3. Plan your heirloom preservation strategy with a guide to preserving a variety of keepsakes—including a quilt, a delicate wedding ring and other items our coworkers at Family Tree Magazine headquarters brought in. (Associate editor Grace Dobush blogged about the shady past of one such heirloom.)

4. Are genetic genealogy tests really 99.9 percent accurate? Will they pinpoint where your ancestors lived? Discover the truth behind common beliefs about DNA and genealogy, and use quick-reference lists of testing companies, definitions and online DNA databases.

5. Follow along with our step-by-step guide to entering genetic genealogy test results in two genealogy software programs.

6. Did you know the historical newspaper search at GenealogyBank treats personal names like keywords? That means if your name is also a word, such as White or Banker, you’ll get lots of false matches. (The site’s obituaries and SSDI database are indexed by name). You’ll find search tricks in our Web Guide to GenealogyBank.  

7. Can’t find your ancestor’s town of “Gross Herzogtum, Baden?” That’s because gross Herzogtum isn’t a town, but a term for “grand duchy.” Find explanations for this and other place terms related to ruling nobility in our guide to research in German states, including Prussia, Hesse, Bavaria and others. (See articles in our online German research toolkit here.)

8. Thinking of adding (or already have added) a genealogy app to your Facebook page? Get the lowdown on FamilyLink's We're Related and Family Builder's Family Tree, two popular genealogy apps for Facebook.

9. Chuckle over six readers’ captions for a giant-fish photo and enter our newest All in the Family Challenge.

10. Where's that one article ... the one about the census ... not the regular census but the special ones ... ? Stop flipping through all this year’s magazines and open to the 2009 index on the last page of your December issue. You'll find that the article on nonpopulation censuses was in the July 2009 Family Tree Magazine on page 20.

Of course, there are even more great resources and tips in the December 2009 Family Tree Magazine. It'll be available starting Nov. 3 at

Family Heirlooms | Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | International Genealogy
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 9:38:18 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, July 10, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: July 6-10
Posted by Diane

Some of the genealogy news bits we rounded up this week:
  • The Genealogy Guys will record their podcast before a live audience at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference. The audience will get to submit questions for possible inclusion in the podcast. The conference is Sept. 2 to 5 in Little Rock, Ark.; the podcast recording is 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3. Look for location information at the conference.

  • Geni is offering a free two-week trial of its Geni Pro premium service, which includes more stats, matches and member collaboration than the free basic service. (Geni Pro subscriptions are normally $4.95 per month.)

  •’s subscription-based Canadian site,, has added French Deaths by Guillotine 1792-1796, with 13,000 names of French citizens executed during the Reign of Terror. The names come from a book written in 1796 by a French journalist.
  • ProQuest, the creator of the HeritageQuest genealogy service, ProQuest Historical Newspapers and other databases for libraries, is working on a new search platform that’ll make I easier to find information related to your genealogy search. Expected launch is 2010.
The company is also adding Boston’s Jewish Advocate (1905 to 1990), Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent (1887 to 1990) and the Detroit Free Press to Proquest Historical Newspapers.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Newspapers | Podcasts | Social Networking
Friday, July 10, 2009 4:08:53 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, July 02, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: June 29 to July 2
Posted by Diane

This week’s news roundup is coming at you a day early, but it's still chock-full:
  • The Generations Network, parent company of, has a poignant new ad campaign you’ll probably catch on some media or other (if you’re worried you’ll miss it, see it on’s YouTube channel). 
  • also has developed an Ancient Ancestry Finder that guesses your haplogroup (ancestral origins) based on a few questions. It’s fun, and the haplogroups have cute names such as "Boatbuilders" and "Inventors," but keep in mind it's not necessarily accurate. At the end, you get a pitch to buy a $79 DNA test to determine if the Finder is correct.
  • If you’ve been thinking of trying the databases at, now might be the time. The New England Historic Genealogical Society is offering $15 off new memberships during July.
  • This week, FamilySearch enhanced its free Record Search Pilot with 12 new collections, which have records from Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Netherlands, and Spain. New United States collections were added for Delaware, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Utah.
International indexing projects now underway involve records from the Czech Republic; Baden, Germany; and South Africa—click here if you’re interested in volunteering.
  • The Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) at the Houston Public Library's downtown Julia Ideson Building is changing its research hours during a renovation. Now through Aug. 31, HMRC is open Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, it'll be open by appointment—call (832) 393-1313 to make one. | FamilySearch | Free Databases | Genetic Genealogy | Libraries and Archives | Newspapers
Thursday, July 02, 2009 11:18:55 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Free Genome Scanning Offer
Posted by Diane

A new genome profiling service called TruGenetics has an introductory offer: The first 10,000 registrants at the site get free genome scanning.

You can get start registering with TruGenetics here.

Genome profiling can give you information about deep ancestry—where your ancient ancestors came from, but not information that’s likely to help you find relatives within a genealogically researchable time frame. 23andme, a similar service, charges $399 for genome scanning.

I haven’t tested this offer. If you do, post a comment here and let me know what you think.

Thanks to Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Rick Crume for this tip!

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, July 01, 2009 9:01:51 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Neurologist Uses Genealogy to Track Rare Disease
Posted by Diane

I came across an interesting article today about a neurologist who used genealogy research to trace a rare inherited disease that affects just five families around the world.

Pallido-Ponto-Nigral-Degeneration (PPND) strikes in middle age, causing symptoms similar to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Victims usually are dead within eight years.

Examining WWII-era records in a hospital basement, Dr. Zbigniew K. Wszolek discovered that two US families with the condition were linked through adoption. The common ancestor: Sarah Bott, born in 1854 in Iowa.

Her parents and grandparents lived to a ripe old age, as did her husband and his children from a second marriage. But four of Bott's five children were crippled and died in middle age (Bott herself died at age 30 in surgery). Wszolek concluded the disease-causing mutation occurred spontaneously in Bott.

Wszolek tracks the family on an 11-foot family tree. Of Bott’s 315 living descendants (spread out over 11 states), 48 now have PPND.

See more on Wszolek’s research in this article.

Another article focuses on the family members in Montana and how they’re coping.

Look for information on researching your family's medical history in an upcoming issue of Family Tree Magazine.

Here are some family health history online resources you can explore right now.

Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, June 02, 2009 5:13:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, May 26, 2009
GeneTree Offers Deal for Y-DNA Donors to SMGF Database
Posted by Diane

If you’re one of the tens of thousands of men who donated DNA samples and pedigree information to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF), your genealogical largesse is being rewarded.

Genetic-genealogy and social networking site GeneTree is extending a special offer to SMGF Y-DNA donors.

Those men didn’t receive test results when they donated their Y-DNA to SMGF’s project, which began in 2000, to build a database linking genetic and genealogical information. The free SMGF database now holds details on 7 million ancestors and represents more than 170 countries.

But now, those Y-DNA donors can access their Y-DNA test results for $49.50 through GeneTree (about a third of GeneTree's regular cost for a test). To take advantage of this offer, follow the instructions on GeneTree

(Donors of mitochondrial DNA, which mothers pass on to their offspring, received a similar offer last year to access their mtDNA results.)

Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, May 26, 2009 3:42:09 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, April 07, 2009
How Y-DNA Can Work in Your Genealogy Search
Posted by Diane

For a good example of integrating genetic genealogy into your family history research, see this USAToday article (Tweeted by Blaine Bettinger and Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak) about Chris Haley’s DNA connections with a Scottish man.

Haley is a Maryland State Archives research administrator and the nephew of the deceased Roots author, Alex Haley.

Haley took a Y-DNA test, which examines the paternal line (the father’s father’s father, and so on), and found a couple of matches through’s Y-DNA database. One match was a man in Scotland, whose daughter June Baff Black had just started doing genealogy (talk about beginner’s luck).

Though Haley and Black haven’t yet been able to find a paper trail leading to their common ancestor, the match on 45 out of 46 markers confirms they’re on the right track.

Roots Television has a video about their first meeting, which happened in March at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show in London.

You can order a DNA test through It's free to search's DNA database by last name (via a search box at the bottom of the DNA landing page) or enter your test results from another company.

The USAToday story also mentions a limitation of Y-DNA testing. Since it’s a relatively new science, you may not find a close match in online databases as quickly as Haley and Black did. | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, April 07, 2009 10:02:14 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, March 30, 2009
New Genomics Company Offers Ancestry Testing
Posted by Diane

Blaine Bettinger at the Genetic Genealogist posted about a new, California-based personal genomics company called Pathway Genomics.

Similar to 23andme, Pathway uses SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing to extract information about your health conditions, ancestry and personal traits.

You can get just the ancestry test for $199 (23andme charges $399 for ancestry, health and traits results).

The test will tell women their maternal haplogroup; and men, their maternal and paternal haplogroups. (That’s because both male and female children inherit the mother’s mitochondrial DNA, but only males inherit the father’s Y-DNA.)

A haplogroup is akin to a branch of the world family tree. In some cases, knowing your haplogroup can help you determine if someone's not a relative. (A female cousin through your mother’s sister, for example, should be from the same maternal haplogroup as you.) But in general, your haplogroup tells you about your ancient roots, not ancestors who lived recently enough to be covered in genealogical records.

See Pathway's answers to frequently asked questions about its ancestry test. The company offers customers the option to discuss test results with an on-staff genetic counselor.

Bettinger, who’s a consultant to Pathway, describes the ancestry test in detail.

See Pathway’s blog, DNAction, too.

Genetic Genealogy
Monday, March 30, 2009 10:05:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, March 09, 2009
Q&A With Beta-Free GeneTree
Posted by Diane

The family networking and genetic genealogy site GeneTree has shed its beta skin and emerged, as the company’s announcement describes, “a simple, intuitive way to regularly communicate with extended family, and to securely share and store family contact information, personal profiles, photos, video and ancestry documents.”

You also can order both mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA genetic genealogy tests, add the results to your profile and search for people who match.

GeneTree president and COO Matt Cupal and I had a quick Q&A over the phone today:
GI: What would you consider GeneTree’s greatest strength?
MC: Probably the positioning that we’ve had along, which is that it’s a family social network, but it has this unique twist of using DNA to extend your concept of family.
GI: Could you give me a quick rundown of GeneTree’s post-beta features?
MC: We’ve improved a lot of the components of the social network, so it’s easier to invite people and stay connected. For example, the page you land on now is a news feed that tells you everything that’s going on in your networks—that could be more DNA connections, or another family member has added a photo or updated the family tree with more people. That's also e-mailed to you once as week as a digest.

We’ve made some dramatic improvements in our family tree building software. It’s intuitive and easy to use. We’ve also added a GEDCOM upload. We’re working on improving it, always, but right now you can have up to 2,000 people inside your GEDCOM.

One of the really cool things about the site is that you can do collaborative family tree work, so you and your cousins and all your other relatives can be on at the same time and make things happen.

GI: Do many people who haven’t ordered a DNA test from GeneTree have their family information on the site?
MC: About 5 percent of the people who come on the site have actually taken DNA tests. It’s a no-cost system to be a member and have your family information there, and that's by far the majority of members.

GI: How many members are there?
MC: We’re moving toward 100,000, and we’ve got about 1.5 million profiles right now—that’s people on trees.
GI: Now that beta’s over, what developments are you planning?
MC: Surname studies are fairly high on the list. We’re also looking at ways we can expand this to the rest of the world. We’re intrigued by the idea of allowing people from multiple sites to come into the system. Maybe they’re a member of Geni or TGN [The Generations Network, owner of] or any number of systems—we’d like to enable them to use the DNA facilities.

We want to make DNA more understandable to the general population—those who are strongly interested in genealogy and those who are more passively interested—to help them better understand how they can use DNA.

We’re starting with an educational component. We’re also designing some new DNA tests to be a little more understandable—still based on the same principles, but tests that can grab the imagination of the general populace more than, say, the particular values of your Y-markers.

GI: What’s your take on the genetic genealogy market right now?
MC: Clearly it’s going to be a challenging time this year. Something we’re working on to help offset that is some lower-priced alternatives, so people can get in the game at a lower number and get their feet wet.
We'll keep you updated on these developments. See the genetic genealogy toolkit on' for more DNA answers.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, March 09, 2009 4:04:20 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Genetic Genealogy Company Shuts Down
Posted by Diane

DNAPrint Genomics, a Florida-based genetic genealogy testing company known for its AncestryByDNA test, has ceased operations, according to a notice on its home page.

My call to the company went to voice mail, then was cut off.

Read more on the Genetic Genealogist and GenomeWeb.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, March 04, 2009 12:50:09 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, January 27, 2009
$79 Can Buy You a 33-Marker Y-DNA Test
Posted by Diane

Ancestry DNA has lowered the price of its 33-marker Y-DNA test to $79 (down from $149).

Results from this test include marker values you can enter into a database to search for relatives and a map showing your haplogroup and other information about your family’s ancient origins. Results don’t include a breakdown of ethnic origins, a type of analysis that has become more controversial of late. has changed up the look of the DNA section as well.

For help deciding which DNA test is right for you, see's genetic genealogy toolkit. | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, January 27, 2009 11:10:49 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, November 20, 2008
FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage Offer Discounted DNA Tests
Posted by Diane

The family networking and genealogy site MyHeritage and genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA just announced a partnership that promises DNA testing discounts for you.

The arrangement continues the trend of merging social networking, genealogy and DNA, on sites such as Genetree, and Familybuilder.

The FamilyTreeDNA-MyHeritage offer includes these discounted DNA tests: 
  • 25-marker Y-DNA: $129 (FamilyTreeDNA doesn’t usually offer a 25-marker test, but its 12-marker test costs $149)
  • mtDNAPlus, which tests mitochondrial DNA and estimates Native American and African ancestry: $129 (this beats FamilyTreeDNA’s regular price of $189)
  • mtDNA and 25-marker Y-DNA: $219 (compare to the regular price of $229 for an mtDNA and 12-marker Y-DNA combo)
The offer page says the specials are for MyHeritage users, though it doesn’t look like you're required to prove you’re a member of MyHeritage.

You can read more about these and other genetic genealogy companies in previous Genealogy Insider blog posts. The DNA toolkit on offers advice on choosing the right test for your research questions.

Genealogy Industry | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, November 20, 2008 9:45:19 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, November 13, 2008
Genetic Genealogy Companies Under Fire
Posted by Diane

Genetic genealogy testing companies aren't doing enough to make sure you understand the limitations and implications of DNA testing, says the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG).

The organization, whose 8,000 members include geneticists, scholars, genetic counselors, nurses and others, today issued a statement with recommendations for the genetic genealogy industry.

It was prompted by the rising popularity of genetic genealogy. According to the ASHG, a half-million Americans will spend $100 to $1,000 per test this year.

ASHG faults tests designed to determine ethnic ancestry, rather than the Y-DNA tests that estimate whether you’re related to someone. "Rarely can definitive conclusions about ancestry be made beyond the assessment of whether putative close relatives are or are not related," reports the statement.

That's because such tests compare the genetic contribution from a tiny slice of your family tree against a reference database that uses DNA samples from modern-day individuals to represent populations that existed eons ago. A lot of population shifting and combination has happened since then.

No standards exist for statistical analysis and how results are reported to you, says the statement. "Perhaps the most important aspect of reporting confidence in ancestry determinations is to accurately convey the level of uncertainty in the interpretations and to convey the real meaning of that uncertainty."

As genetic ancestry testing expands to cover inherited medical conditions, ASHG is concerned patients may misconstrue the results of these often-inconclusive tests when making medical decisions.

The organization joins a growing chorus. States such as California and New York have come down on genome profiling companies including 23andMe and DNA Traits for providing medical testing without involving individuals’ doctors.

A year ago, the New York Times doubted the accuracy of ethnic DNA tests after its reporter received varied and conflicting test results from five companies. Bert Ely, a geneticist who helped start the African-American DNA Roots Project with high hopes in 2000, shared his findings that most African-Americans have genetic similarities to numerous ethnic groups in Africa—making it impossible to match African-Americans with a single group.

An article in the Oct. 19, 2007, Science magazine cited these problems:
  • Limited information in companies’ reference databases might lead them to draw the wrong conclusions. (Today’s ASHG statement said these databases “reflect a woefully incomplete sampling of human genetic diversity.”)
  • Some companies’ databases are proprietary, making it hard to verify customers’ test results.
  • Tests trace a small percentage of a person’s ancestors and can’t pinpoint where they lived, or the specific ethnic group they might’ve belonged to.
The ASGH ancestry testing recommendations include the following:
  • The genetic genealogy industry should make a greater effort to clarify the limitations of ancestry testing. Consumers must understand more about ancestry testing.
  • Additional research is needed to further understand the extent to which the accuracy of test results is affected by the makeup of existing human DNA databases, geographical patterns of human diversity, chromosomal marker selection and statistical methods. 
  • Guidelines should be developed to facilitate explanation and counseling for ancestry testing.
  • Scientists analyzing genetic ancestry test results should take into account the historical, sociopolitical and cultural contexts under which human genetics evolved.
  • Mechanisms for greater accountability of the ancestry testing industry should be explored.
Part of the problem may lie in the complex science involved. The explanations are difficult for laypeople to understand (I'm a layperson, and I'll admit it); but in simplifying them for marketing materials and test reports, DNA companies may downplay the tests' limitations.

Do you have a handle on what genetic genealogy testing is all about? Click Comments and tell us about your DNA testing experiences. For information on how DNA can (and can't) aid your genealogy research, see our DNA toolkit.

Genealogy Industry | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, November 13, 2008 9:36:49 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Spitting Becomes Fashionable
Posted by Diane

Fashionistas have found a new accessory for their Marchesa and Derek Lam: little plastic tubes of, well, spit.

The founders of genome profiling service 23andMe (one of’s latest business partners) put a creative and chic spin on DNA test marketing by hosting a “spit party” during New York’s Fashion Week.

Well-dressed celebrities including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, film producer Harvey Weinstein (both of whom have financially backed 23andMe) and designer Diane von Furstenberg were in attendance. Between cocktails, guests could spit into tiny tubes to have their genomes profiled.

23andMe, whose test can tell you about genetic traits (such as whether you like broccoli), health risks and your ancient ancestry, was looking to promote its new $399 price (down from $999) and the online community it recently added.

The party went on despite a warning letter the State of New York sent 23andMe for performing medical testing without required licensing. (The company is negotiating a resolution.)

All I can say is it's a good thing I wasn't invited. I'd have to blow a few months' salary on something decent to wear, then I'd probably miss the spitting tube and ruin my new dress. Read more about the spit party in the New York Times.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 4:01:23 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, September 11, 2008
Familybuilder Announces Low-Cost DNA Tests; Global Network
Posted by Diane

Two big announcements from Familybuilder, the company that created the Family Tree genealogy application for social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.
  • First, Familybuilder’s new Global Network brings the Family Tree application outside of social networking sites.
Anyone can create a Family Tree profile on Familybuilder and link it to Family Tree profiles on social networking sites. (More than 20 million Family Tree profiles exist on such sites.) You’ll need a free registration to build a tree or access existing ones. 
  • Second, starting Oct. 15, Familybuilder will offer low-cost DNA tests, focusing on the social networking market. According to a written announcement, “No genealogy service caters to the 300 to 400 million people who use social networks to research their family trees.”
The offerings include a 17-marker Y-DNA test and a mitochondrial (mt) DNA test; both cost $59.95.

FamilyBuilder does have others beat: Compare its 17-marker test with FamilyTreeDNA’s 12-marker test ($149); DNA Testing Systems’ 13-marker test ($200); Chromosomal Labs’ 19-marker test is $260.

A 17-marker test is usually enough to tell you if you’re related to someone, but higher-resolution tests (those that test more markers) are more accurate. For example, it’s possible a 17-marker test may match on 15 of the 17 markers, where a 45-marker test of the same two people might match on 30 out of the 45 markers.

Note that a Y-DNA test doesn’t tell you how you’re related to someone; but it estimates how long ago a common ancestor may have lived.

Many genealogists go straight for the higher-marker tests (my guess is that's the market most traditional genetic genealogy companies concentrate on). Familybuilder says it plans to expand its DNA lineup and is “committed to continuously driving the costs of these tests down over time.”

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, September 11, 2008 5:27:33 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, September 09, 2008
23andMe Demystifies DNA for Cheek-Swabbers
Posted by Diane

23andMe, the Google-funded company that profiles customers’ genomes, is teaming up with to beef up the genetic information for's DNA customers.

Users of’s DNA testing services will now get access to the same ancestral content available through the 23andMe Web site.

Ancestry DNA offers Y-DNA and mitochondrial (mt) DNA tests for $149 to $179. Y-DNA follows male lines and can help you search for potential cousins in DNA databases; mtDNA informs you about maternal lines and is best for exploring your ancient ancestry.

See an example of the educational materials Ancestry DNA test-takers will get with their test results.

Meanwhile, 23andMe now “democratizes personal genetics” with its $399 genome profiling service (previously, the only available test cost a pricey $999). This test gives you both health- and ancestry-related information about your genes.

Though its service would still empty out most people's piggy banks, the 23andMe Web site does a good job of explaining genetic testing to laypeople.'s DNA customers should benefit. | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, September 09, 2008 8:38:22 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, August 19, 2008
New European Genetic Map Resembles Modern Borders
Posted by Diane

Our contributing editor Rick Crume sent me a note about this cool genetic map of Europe, created by the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam. Overlapping color-coded outlines show the genetic relationships of 23 populations.

The New York Times also covered the map.

According to geneticists who developed the map, it shows populations in Europe are similar, but not too close to tell them apart genetically. The Times reports that one of those scientists says it “should be possible” to create a test that can tell you which European country you’re probably from.

That’d be great. Right now, DNA tests can give you a haplogroup or a general population (for example, East Asian or Indo-European), but they can’t specifically tell you which countries your DNA represents.

The outlines on Europe’s genetic map resemble those on its geographic map. The most genetic difference occurs between northern and southern populations, probably reflecting ancient migrations that populated Europe from the south.

The map also shows where two “genetic barriers” arose: One separated the Finns from the rest of Europe due to the small early Finnish population; the other separated those in Italy, perhaps because the Alps kept people from moving back and forth.

The map came from genetics testing that analyzed 500,000 sites on the human genomes of nearly 2,500 Europeans.

Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 8:03:09 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, July 30, 2008
UK Genetic Genealogy Patent Dispute Ends
Posted by Diane

A patent dispute between British genetic genealogy companies Oxford Ancestors (headed up by Seven Daughters of Eve author Bryan Sykes) and DNA Heritage ended in favor of the latter.

Oxford Ancestors obtained a UK patent for ““Method of using Y chromosome haplotyping in forensic and genealogic tests” in 2004 (it filed for the patent in 1999). The patent consisted of seven claims about the company’s Y-chromosome haplotype analysis and its use in surname and genetic genealogy research.

Oxford ancestors accused DNA Heritage two years ago of infringing upon its patent. In January, DNA Heritage asked the UK Intellectual Property Office to re-evaluate four of the claims, contending the science behind them wasn't sufficiently “novel and inventive” over previous genetic research.

In April, the office issued an opinion (subject to a subsequent three-month review period) that the four claims did not involve inventive steps.

"Other researchers had already shown the connection between surnames, Y-chromosomes and family history," says DNA Heritage president Alastair Greenshields. He added the finding would help keep genetic testing prices affordable because companies won't have to pay royalty fees for their tests.

We're currently seeking comment from Oxford Ancestors and will post it here.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 2:47:49 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, July 24, 2008
101 Web Sites: DNA and Mapping Tools
Posted by Diane

Two more great genealogy sites you should check out (for more recommendations, see the full list of this year’s 101 Best Web Sites):
  • GeneTree combines social networking and genetic genealogy. You can make profiles for yourself and your ancestors, keep track of DNA test results and search for matches. Use the site free even if you didn’t take advantage of  GeneTree’s testing services, which include both mitochondrial- and (as of this week) Y-DNA tests.
  • Search the USGS Geographic Names Information System for towns (even those no longer in existence), landmarks, waterways, cemeteries and more in this database of more than 2 million places. You can map any result using a variety of online tools.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, July 24, 2008 8:54:12 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Sunday, July 20, 2008
GeneTree Adds Y-DNA Testing
Posted by Diane

GeneTree, a family history networking Web site where members can create profiles and explore their genetic genealogy, just added Y-DNA testing to its offerings.

A 33-marker test and a 46-marker test are available; prices start at $149 with discounts for those who’ve already ordered a mitochondrial DNA test through GeneTree.

Since men pass their Y-DNA to sons along with (usually) their surname, Y-DNA testing is helpful for confirming or disproving relationships between individuals with the same last name.

Y-DNA test-takers also can participate in surname studies (which GeneTree president Matt Cupal says the company will kick off in the near future) and enter test results in Y-DNA databases to look for matches.

Women—who don’t have Y-DNA—can participate by having a father, brother or male-line cousin or uncle take a test. For example, your father’s brother or the brother’s son could take a Y-DNA test and the results would apply to you.

Cupal says even though Y-DNA tests are more-used, GeneTree launched with mitochondrial DNA services because they apply to both men and women. (Women pass mitochondrial DNA to their offspring.)

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, whose mitochondrial DNA database you can search using GeneTree’s DNAvigator tool, also has amassed more mitochondrial- than Y-DNA results.

Right now DNAvigator searches 51,000 of SMGF’s 72,000 mitochondrial DNA results; that number will be increased in the coming month. Eventually, a new version of the DNAvigator will search both mitochondrial- and Y-DNA results.

Cupal says GeneTree has more than half a million profiles, which includes both living members and their ancestors.

Genetic Genealogy
Sunday, July 20, 2008 10:34:59 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, June 19, 2008
Will California's Letters to Genetic Testing Companies Affect Genealogists?
Posted by Diane

California's attempt to regulate genetic testing has raised a bit of a stir in the genealogical community, but it's unclear whether genetic genealogy tests will be affected.

Wired reports that the state department of public health sent sternly worded cease-and-desist letters to 13 DNA testing companies warning they’re in violation of California law.

California requires labs that are located in the state or process biological samples originating there to get a state laboratory license, and it also prohibits direct-to-consumer clinical lab tests without a doctor’s order.

One warning letter, linked in Wired’s article, specifically states genetic tests are not exempt. But it doesn’t distinguish between genetic genealogy tests (such as Y-DNA tests) and disease-related genetic tests (such as 23andMe’s genotyping services).

Genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA didn’t receive a letter, spokesperson Bennett Greenspan told me, but the company’s disease-related testing business called DNA Traits got one (now posted on Wired). And from the letter's wording, it looks like the state’s concern is tests that reveal medical information without involving the consumer’s physician.

The California Department of Health hasn’t yet returned my call seeking clarification. Meanwhile, the letter demands recipients cease and desist offering genetic tests to California citizens.

Update (June 20): Californians won't need a doctor's note to learn their haplogroups. Lea Brooks of the California Department of Public Health told me that "Genetic testing used for ancestor tracking or forensic purposes is not covered by California clinical laboratory law standards." That means the state is limiting its investigations to companies that do medical-related genetic testing.

Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, June 19, 2008 5:18:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Saturday, May 17, 2008
Could you be an Osmond?
Posted by Diane

Are you a little bit country … or a little bit rock and roll? Genetic genealogy company Genetree might be able to help you decide.


Genetree just launched a Web site about its partnership with the Osmond family (maybe you can name them all, but for the record: Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny, Marie and Jimmy) as they get ready for their anniversary tour.


Genetree is joining the tour for a bit and promoting a $149 mitochondrial test (which comes with a souvenir Osmond photo). You can compare your results with the Osmonds’ genetic profiles in Genetree to see if you might be related. Keep in mind a mitochondrial test won’t pinpoint common ancestors within a genealogically researchable time frame.


Big fan? Scroll down the site and check out Osmond family photos, which you can click for dates and IDs.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Saturday, May 17, 2008 12:15:28 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, April 28, 2008
Delving into DNA
Posted by Allison

No matter how much experience you have in genealogy, you're always a beginner with some type of research or resource. Right now, I'm a newbie at genetic genealogy: I took my first DNA test last week. If you're contemplating diving into your own gene pool, watch this video of my experience to learn what you're in for:

Genetic Genealogy | Videos
Monday, April 28, 2008 10:15:59 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, March 24, 2008
Donated DNA to SMGF? You Could Get a $19.50 Profile
Posted by Diane

If you've participated in the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation’s (SMGF) DNA study, you may be able to get your genetic genealogy test results for just $19.50.

SMGF’s collaboration with the DNA-enabled social networking site Genetree has provided an avenue for SMGF to release the DNA profiles in what study director Scott Woodward calls a “compelling, confidential” way.

To be eligible for the offer, you must have ordered an SMGF participation kit prior to Oct. 23, 2007, and returned the properly completed kit to SMGF postmarked no later than Dec. 31, 2007.

If that’s you, you’ll be able to access your mitochondrial (mt) DNA profile (with genetic information passed from mothers to their children), along with the pedigree information you submitted to SMGF, online through Genetree.

You’ll need a free Genetree basic membership to view your profile. It’ll take about two weeks for your request to be filled—get instructions for obtaining your results on Genetree's "unlock" page.

The SMGF study started in 2000 at Brigham Young University’s Center for Molecular Genealogy, with researchers collecting blood samples and pedigree charts at genealogy conferences. The goal? Build a database of DNA and corresponding genealogical information.

Several years ago, the project outgrew the university and moved to SMGF, where the database now contains nearly 100,000 DNA samples and more than 6 million corresponding genealogical records from people in 170 countries.

You can search SMGF databases and contact potential relatives through the site, but until now, participants didn’t receive their test results.

On Genetree, which launched in beta last October, you can create profiles for yourself and deceased relatives, add DNA test results or order an mtDNA test ($99 or $149), search for relatives, share memories, build a family tree, and invite relatives and friends to participate.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, March 24, 2008 9:55:15 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, March 12, 2008
... and DNA Consulting becomes DNA Testing Systems
Posted by Diane

In another family history industry renaming, genetic genealogy testing company DNA Consulting is now called DNA Testing Systems, says founder Donald N. Yates.

Yates also announced he's relocated the company from Santa Fe, NM, to Scottsdale, Ariz.

DNA Testing Systems will add DNAPrint Genomics’ line of biogeographical ancestry tests to its product selection. Those offerings include the AncestrybyDNA test (sold under the name Whole DNA), which breaks your genetic heritage into Native American, East Asian, Sub-Saharan African and Indo-European anthropological groups.

Genetic Genealogy
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 8:46:18 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, January 24, 2008
SeqWright Launches Genome Profiling Service
Posted by Diane

Someone else wants to map your genome. Houston-based SeqWright Inc. just launched SeqWright GPS, a genomic profiling service that evaluates your miniscule genomic variations called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs (“snips”).

Similar to the recently launched 23andMe, SeqWright customers can use online tools to learn your risk for certain diseases, compare your traits to those of family members who’ve been tested and explore your ancient ancestry. You won’t learn whether you’re related to someone, but rather, which broadly defined population groups you most likely come from.

SeqWright’s Web site is less friendly-looking than 23andMe's, which obviously benefits from Google’s financial investment, and doesn’t make quite as much effort to explain scientific lingo. At $998, SeqWright’s test is $1 less than 23andMe’s.

Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, January 24, 2008 4:04:29 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, January 10, 2008
Morse Adds One-Step Tools for Genetic Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Steve Morse, creator of the One-Step search tools Web site, has added genetic genealogy utilities to his site.

Rather than find matches in genetic genealogy databases (we’d love to see that utility), these free tools help you learn more about your DNA test results. Three of the tools work using data from the FamilyTreeDNA Web site, so customers of other companies will have to pass on those. The tools include:
  • FamilyTreeDNA Markers: Use this one to view your Y-chromosome test results from FamilyTreeDNA—just enter your kit and code numbers.
  • Haplogroups: Anyone who's taken a Y-DNA test can get a pretty good idea of his haplogroup by entering his STR marker values. (If you're a FamilyTreeDNA client, just enter your kit and code number.) As Morse explains, haplogroups are defined by SNP markers, but you usually don’t get SNP values in a Y-DNA test report. STR marker values, though, can predict a haplogroup.
  • Group Chart: Here, you can generate a DNA chart for a group of people for easier test results comparison. Each group member must have tested with FamilyTreeDNA.
  • Distances: FamilyTreeDNA clients can use their group chart (generated with the Group Chart tool) to compute the genetic distances among members of the group.   
  • Migration Details: Select your haplogroup from a dropdown menu to get a description of your ancient ancestors’ migrations across the globe. You’ll see shifts in haplogroups and the mutation numbers that defined the shifts, along with the geographic location and time range the mutation took place.
  • Migration Map: Select your haplogroup to generate a visual representation of the migration details described above.
See the DNA toolkit on for genetic genealogy advice, explanations and resources.

Steve Morse also has created One-Step Tools for searching online databases such as and (you must subscribe to to see search results from its databases). You'll find hints for using the tools in the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, January 10, 2008 1:18:52 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, December 12, 2007
New Research Helps on
Posted by Diane

I wanted to let you know about a few goodies we’ve recently added to our Web site.

First is a group of free research guides—let’s call them “kits.” Each kit is a collection of tips, background information, Web sites, books and CDs to help you with these research topics:
At the top of each page in the kit, you’ll see an In This Article list of what’s on that page. At the bottom of each page, use the More on This Topic section to link to other pages in the kit.

For your researching convenience, we’ve also put together a free PDF guide to locations and contact information for FamilySearch’s Family History Centers in the United States and Canada. You can download that from

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy | Oral History | Research Tips
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 10:12:22 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, December 10, 2007
DNA Tests Verify Pets' Pedigrees, Too
Posted by Diane

Now four-legged family members can get in on the genetic genealogy act, too. That’s right—owners of mixed-breed pooches can learn about their pets’ pedigrees so they can confidently answer the question, “So what kind of dog is that?”

Fern Glazer, our writer who got genetic genealogy experts to answer readers’ common DNA quandaries for the March 2008 Family Tree Magazine (on newsstands mid-January), uncovered a couple of companies that do doggy DNA testing:
  • Last August, DNA Print Genomics launched Doggie DNAPrint 1.0, a test costing about $100 that examines 204 canine markers obtained from a cheek swab to reveal your dog’s ancestry population (its relationship to four ancient ancestral breeds). The company is also building a purebred database that eventually will let you compare your dog's DNA for accurate breed identification.
  • Mars Veterinary recently rolled out The Wisdom Panel MX test. Using a blood sample your veterinarian takes, the test detects specific combinations of genetic markers that can reveal the breed heritage of your dog.

Genealogy fun | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, December 10, 2007 5:21:44 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, November 27, 2007
NY Times Asks "How Helpful is Ethnic DNA Testing?"
Posted by Diane

Did everyone read the article on ethnic genetic genealogy testing in Sunday’s New York Times?

It was somewhat critical of the industry with regard to DNA tests for African origins. Reporter Ron Nixon said test results are often conflicting and confusing, and testing companies focus more on marketing than on communicating the limitations of ethnic DNA testing.

Nixon sent his own DNA to five companies for a mitochondrial (mt) DNA test and got strikingly different results: Reports named from two to 12 ethnic groups, for a total of 25 possibilities.

Nixon also interviewed representatives of several test companies, as well as Harvard historian and "African-American Lives" host Henry Louis Gates. Gates’ first mtDNA test in 2000 reported Egyptian roots; one from another company in 2005 concluded he had European, not Egyptian, ancestry.

One reason for mixed results is testing companies’ proprietary comparison databases of DNA profiles from modern people. Databases may be skewed toward particular ethnic groups and not represent other groups.

Furthermore, people have been moving around Africa for eons. Your DNA could match someone who lives in a particular area today, but whose ancestors came from elsewhere.

Another issue is that there’s still so much to learn. In our November 2007 Family Tree Magazine African-American research guide, Roots Project director Bruce Jackson, PhD, said “We have a poor understanding of the genetics of African groups ... Identical genetic markers or signatures (called haplotypes) are found among different African ethnic groups for reasons that are not clear.”

Jackson went on to note scientists have studied only 1 percent of African ethnic groups, which doesn’t even include all those who were sources of the slave trade to North America.

Gates is attempting to address these issues by partnering with FamilyTreeDNA on AfricanDNA, a project offering DNA tests paired with genealogy research services for $888 to $1,077.

If that's not in your budget, do this: Research "on paper" as much as you can before turning to DNA. More African-American resources are out there than many people realize. (See our online toolkit and updates on this blog for tips.)

Then decide what you want DNA testing to tell you and carefully research your options to pick the best test. Make sure you understand the limitations of DNA testing: As you see here, results can be inconclusive, and you don’t learn where specific ancestors came from. If you don’t understand your results, ask your testing company for help and consult sources such as Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner (Rodale, $16.95).

Share your thoughts on the Times' article in the Hot Topics Forum.

African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:16:37 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 26, 2007
First Retail DNA Paternity Test on Shelves
Posted by Diane

Sorenson Genomics has come out with the first retail DNA paternity kit, and it yields results in three to five days.

The Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit is on sale at Rite-Aid stores in California, Oregon and Washington for $29.99 plus a $119 lab processing fee. That beats the $245 price tag for a paternity test through Identigene’s Web site.

Customers send in cheek swabs from the alleged father and child with the lab fee, and can get their results online, by fax or mail. It sounds a lot easier than being on one of Maury Povich’s “Who’s your daddy?” shows.

For genealogical purposes, this test could be handy in cases of adoption or “nonpaternity events.” You need DNA samples from both parties, and it can only tell you whether a parent-child relationship exists—not whether the two are related in another way (tests for other relationships are available through Identigene and other labs).

We’re interested in future implications, though: Can a retail genetic genealogy test be far behind?

Genetic Genealogy
Monday, November 26, 2007 12:20:39 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 20, 2007
23andMe Profiles Your Genome
Posted by Diane

A new DNA testing Web site with financial backing from Google purports to “help you understand your DNA.” It’s called 23andMe, a name that refers to the 23 pairs of chromosomes making up your genome.

The site’s test examines all your DNA (rather than focusing on the X or Y chromosome) for SNPs (pronounced snips), which are variations that can show relationships between people. You have about 500,000 SNPs linked to everything from health issues to whether you like Brussels sprouts.

To use 23andMe, you order a kit, send in a cheek swab and later log on to get your DNA profile. It provides information on your phenotypes, or observable traits resulting from interactions between your genes and the environment. Your phenotypes can tell you about your ancestry and about how your genes may affect your health.

The site's Gene Journal helps you understand your results with tools including an Odds Calculator (plug in variables such as age, ethnicity and genetic information to see what medical conditions you should be concerned about), a glossary and research article archive.

You can use ancestry tools such as a Global Similarity Map that compares your genome to people around the world, which can shed light on where your ancestors came from. You also can consult a Maternal Ancestry Tree to learn about your family’s ancient roots.

The test is pricey at $999 per kit. What you can learn is more about health than genealogy, and it’s bound to be controversial as non-doctors try to absorb medical information. So of course, after you use all the cool tools, you’ll want share your findings with your doctor.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 1:33:57 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, November 16, 2007
AfricanDNA Testing and Research Service Launches
Posted by Diane

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor who hosted PBS’ “African-American Lives” series, is partnering with genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA to launch AfricanDNA. The new service will provide provide African Americans with family tree research in addition to DNA testing.

The genealogy part is important, says Gates, because of the limits of genetic testing. “The available DNA data are not by any means complete, and these tests will not yield the names of any of the individuals on our distant family trees—just the general geographic areas in which our ancestors lived.  Sometimes the tests yield multiple exact tribal matches, making it necessary for historians to interpret the most plausible result.”  

AfricanDNA offers mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA tests for $189 each ($378 for both). Results are compared to FamilyTreeDNA’s database of DNA profiles from around the world. A board of scholars from institutions such as Emory University and Boston University will help interpret customers’ results.

Test takers can opt for the Genealogy Package ($888 for one test or $1,077 for both), which includes a documented lineage as far back as records permit.

African-American roots | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, November 16, 2007 4:13:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, October 26, 2007
Social Networking Meets Genetic Genealogy
Posted by Diane

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) is combining two of the latest genealogical developments—DNA testing and online social networking—in its partnership with the GeneTree beta Web site.

Users can sign up for a free GeneTree account and create home pages with photos, family trees, multimedia and DNA results. All named ancestors automatically get pages, too, which families can add to. A niftily named tool called DNAvigator searches the SMGF mitochondrial (mt) DNA test results database for matches to yours, then compares the associated lineages and locations, and presents the results “in an intuitive visual representation” like the one here. Matching people can get in touch through GeneTree.

You also can order mtDNA tests, which both men and women can take, through GeneTree. Y-DNA tests will soon be available for men.

Some who contributed DNA samples to the SMGF databases—those who requested test kits before Oct. 22 of this year, and send in their samples before Nov. 22—are eligible to receive their test results for a processing fee. That includes participants back in the early days of the project, when it was hosted by Brigham Young University, says SMGF spokesperson Peggy Hayes. Learn more by calling (800) 344-7643 or e-mailing SMGF.

SMGF, the nonprofit arm of Sorenson Companies, has been collecting researchers’ DNA samples and associated family tree information for years to build its free Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA databases. GeneTree used to offer paternity testing, but now Sorenson's IdentiGene division has taken over that business.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Friday, October 26, 2007 2:11:32 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, October 16, 2007
DNA Ancestry Emerges From Beta
Posted by Diane’s DNA Ancestry site has emerged from beta offering Y-DNA and mitochondrial tests (ranging from $149 to $199) and promising Ancestry Member Tree users will soon be able to add their test results to the information in their trees.

Public trees are searchable, so theoretically, you could find the name of a candidate for your great-grandfather, take a DNA test and see if you’re a match to his descendant.

DNA Ancestry seems user-friendly, with streamlined test ordering, and genetic genealogy information (including sample test result reports) linked on the right side of the home page. You also can listen to Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak,’s chief family historian and co-author (with Ann Turner) of Trace Your Roots With DNA (Rodale, $14.95), talk about genetic genealogy on NPR.

People who get tested with DNA Ancestry are automatically notified of matches in its DNA database. You’ll be able to enter results from other labs in the database, which isn’t yet available but will be free.

Of course, you’ll want to take the site’s marketing with a grain of salt. An ad on says “Looking for your ancestors? Just say ‘aah.’” Kind of gives the impression you take a test and boom, you know your missing ancestor’s name and place of birth.

Yes, you might take a test and immediately learn you unquestionably match a cousin who knows your family history back to the Dark Ages. But we’re not to the point where that’s possible for all. You’ll probably need to plug your test results into several databases before finding a match, and those matches may be iffy enough that you have to do more genealogical research before you can say for sure whether and how you’re related.

You can get more details on DNA Ancestry on its FAQ page and blog. Look in an upcoming Family Tree Magazine for our article featuring  answers to genealogists' pressing genetic genealogy questions.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 11:15:36 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, October 02, 2007
SMGF DNA Database About to Balloon
Posted by Diane

If you've taken a DNA test to learn more about your ancestry, have you searched the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation DNA database lately?

The nonprofit Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) just announced it’s on course to collect more than 30,000 DNA samples by the end of this year, for a total of more than 100,000 samples and corresponding genealogical records. Mitochondrial DNA (passed from mothers to their children) makes up the bulk of the additions.

The growth is partly due to SMGF’s efforts to collect DNA internationally, including in Panama, Mongolia, Thailand and Africa.

The new DNA and genealogies will pad SMGF's test results database, which contains information about more than six million ancestors from 172 countries. You can search it for free.

You also can contribute your DNA and pedigree by requesting a test kit. Note you won’t get test results—for that, you’ll need to use a commercial service. (Sorenson Genomics no longer offers commercial tests through Relative Genetics. Back in June, The Generations Network acquired Relative Genetics and its Y-Match results database.)

See SMGF’s FAQ for more details on contributing DNA, and watch upcoming Family Tree Magazines for our answers to your genetic genealogy questions.

Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, October 02, 2007 2:57:52 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, September 13, 2007
DNA Consulting to Launch Genetic Genealogy Forum
Posted by Diane

DNA Consulting is planning an online forum called DNA Ancestor Communities for genealogists who’ve taken DNA tests.

I got a sneak peek at the site, to launch this week at The forum has boards for people whose tests have revealed European, Native American, Melungeon and “World” (non-European) heritages, plus a general Q&A board.

On request from DNA Consultants customers, monitors for each category will search updated versions of the OmniPop DNA comparison database. (Users tested by another company can order searches and analysis for $120.) The OmniPop database, which DNAConsulting licenses, contains DNA test results from volunteers. It’s also free online but can be pretty tricky for laypeople to use.

DNA Ancestor Communities monitors also can help forum members learn to use another online comparison database from the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes.

DNA Consulting staff will answer genetic genealogy questions on the site's General Discussion board. Principal investigator Donald Yates says he hopes the site will help people understand results from DNA Consulting's DNA Fingerprint test, but you don’t have to be a customer to join the forum.

Genetic Genealogy
Thursday, September 13, 2007 8:06:43 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, September 04, 2007 Launches DNA Beta Site
Posted by Diane

Back in June, The Generations Network (TGN) acquired Relative Genetics and its test results database from Sorenson Genomics. (See our blog report.)

Now we’re seeing the fruits of that union on the DNA Ancestry beta site. There, you can order Y-DNA tests for $149 (33 markers) or $199 (46 markers), or mtDNA tests for $179. On the overview and ordering pages, you get information on the tests, and you can see a sample test results report. Trace Your Roots with DNA (Rodale, $14.95) co-author Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak became TGN’s chief family historian early this year, so expect good-quality background information.

Those with a free registration will be able to search a test-result database and enter results from other companies’ tests.

The Relative Genetics site will be phased out by the end of 2007. See DNA Ancestry's FAQ page for more information.

Look for more genetic genealogy help in upcoming issues of Family Tree Magazine. Also see the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine’s user-friendly testing guide (sold out from our back issues store, but ask for it at your library).

Family Tree Magazine articles | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, September 04, 2007 9:24:34 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, June 18, 2007 Re-enters the DNA Business
Posted by Diane

It was only a matter of time. plans to sell DNA test kits and add a genetic genealogy database to its array of research offerings.

It’s made possible by a partnership between’s parent company, The Generations Network (TGN), and Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Genomics—one of the country’s largest DNA testing labs, the creator of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) genetic genealogy database, and until now, the owner of consumer genetic genealogy testing lab Relative Genetics.

Relative Genetics will close, and its customers and Y-Match test results database will become part of TGN. will market the tests, with results to be added to’s database, and host the surname projects formerly at Relative Genetics.

Relative Genetics spokesperson Peggy Hayes says the free Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation database, which isn't part of Relative Genetics, is not part of the partnership. "SMGF will continue its mission as a philanthropic organization," she added.'s DNA tests will cost less than $200 and be available later this summer. Sorenson's labs will provide the testing kits and analyze customers' DNA.

The DNA test results database will be free at Former Relative Genetics customers will automatically become registered users, who can access the site’s free services.

The customers will be able to control privacy settings, or opt out altogether by contacting Relative Genetics before July 15. (see Relative Genetics' FAQ page for more on what this development means for customers).

You may remember the GenetiKit, TGN predecessor’s first foray into genetic genealogy. Also a partnership with Relative Genetics, the GenetiKit Y-DNA test kit debuted in 2002 for $219 and faded away a few years ago.

Genealogy Industry | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, June 18, 2007 10:39:45 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Tracing the Lost Colony Through DNA
Posted by Diane

Genetic genealogy could help researchers figure out what happened to the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island, NC.

It’s one of America’s most enduring mysteries: What happened to the 100-plus settlers who landed on the island in 1587? When the governor, John White, was finally able to return there in 1590, he found it deserted and, inexplicably, the word Croatoan carved into a tree.

Theories abound: Spanish explorers destroyed the settlement, the colonists tried unsuccessfully to return to England, they assimilated into American Indian groups.

The last speculation is what Brighton, Mich., genetics lab DNA Explain, along with the North Carolina-based Lost Colony Center for Science and Research, will study. Researchers will test the Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA lines of people identified through genealogical research as possible descendants of Roanoke colonists. For comparison, they also may test the colonists’ known relatives in Britain.

Well, my curiosity is certainly piqued!

Have you solved a family mystery through DNA testing? Let us know by posting a comment.

Genetic Genealogy
Tuesday, June 12, 2007 12:14:36 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]