How long is my DNA sample viable for further testing?

At the BIFHSGO (British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa) meeting on Saturday this grandma showed up with DNA test kits for anyone to take home and with answers to common DNA test specific questions. One of the many questions asked has prompted me to post about it. “How long is my DNA sample viable for further testing at FTDNA (Family Tree DNA)?”

The Short Answer

Until they run out of sample to use. “…we will not need to request additional samples. This is only necessary if we have exhausted the samples that you have already provided. If additional samples are needed, we will send a new collection kit to the primary address on the account.The Test Process, FTDNA

The Long Answer

The question was from a Gentleman who had submitted his original DNA sample about ten years ago to FTDNA and it was about upgrading his results to the newest version of the DNA test.

The 10 Year Old DNA Sample

This original sample would have been for a YDNA or mtDNA test. The original test was made with the existing test apparatus at the time, YDNA and mtDNA testing performed by FTDNA does not use chips or chip sets. Bead chips (BeadArray Microarray technology) are used for autosomal and X chromosome testing by AncestryDNA, 23andMe and FamilyTree DNA’s Family Finder.

The original sample can be used to do an auDNa test as well, using the latest and greatest chip set on FTDNA.

As stated above, you could use the original ten year old sample until there was nothing left of the sample to test. When you run out, FTDNA will send you a new test kit to submit a new sample.

Other Testing Companies

This question as it relates to AncestryDNA, was covered by Roberta Estes in May 2016 in her blog, DNA Explained, Ancestry Modifies Their Autosomal DNA Chip. Ancestry does no store your sample after the sample has been used once. She states, “If you retest today, you’ll have to handle both tests separately in your account.  There is currently no way to merge tests, so you’ll have an old one and a new one.  There is no “best of both worlds.”  There is no way to preserve stars or notes or anything you may have done to one account and transfer to a different account.  About the only thing you could do is, in time, to compare to see if you continue to have the same matches on both chips as more people test on the new chip.  and 23andme do not store your sample so to get your test redone using the latest chip set for them you would have to submit a new sample for testing.”

23andme does not keep your sample for further testing.

My Heritage? My Heritage is a repackaging of FamilyTree DNA’s Family Finder test, so this auDNA test sample would be kept on file at FamilyTree DNA, though I don’t know how many hoops you’d have to jump through to get an upgrade via FamilyTree DNA using a sample sent in from My Heritage. This is from an industry insider – still no reply from My Heritage.

Not complaining about the wait. I have also been trying to call FTNDA on and off today to ask another client related kit question and can’t get through. I am sure it’s all the crazy advertising that was done over the holidays slamming all testing company’s phone lines. If you need me, I will be perpetually on hold with the knowledge that more and more people are getting out and testing!

Thanks to Peter Roberts, my good friend and hero (his other title is Associate Professor and Archivist at Georgia State University it really should be something closer to Genetic Genealogy Geek) for input on this blog post.

For more information and an explanation of Chips in Genetics see DNA Chip – Genetic Testing of the Future, Lisa Althoff, 1999.

Betty Jean’s Adoption Search – “I’ve got a secret”

Betty Jean’s Adoption search is moving right along. It’s an interesting thing, this kind of search because someone has to have a secret. A secret that they told no one, ever, if you are the father. If you are the mother? It’s a secret you probably had to tell someone at some point. I can imagine the fear of the disapproval and anger that might be foisted upon on unwed mother or father of the 1920’s deep south.

Betty X’s Abandonement

Betty Jean was left somewhere in or near Asheville, North Carolina. When her foster parents picked-her up, it was from, according to them, a Catholic hospital. When the Sister gave Betty Jean to them, she described Betty Jean’s mother as having blue eyes and black hair. Whoever left her, father, mother, grandparent, uncle, or aunt, didn’t leave any information with the Sister(s). All of her adoption files were empty. Blank. Nothing in them, period.

The Living Cousin

We found a living cousin, Jane and I, using Traditional Genealogy, Genetic Genealogy and a bit of Forensic Genealogy – from Dick Eastman’s Blog: “The word ‘forensic’ means ‘relating to the use of science or technology in the investigation and establishment of facts or evidence.” In this case, forensic would mean to use science or technology in addition to traditional records. In short, Forensic Genealogy is the use of something OTHER THAN standard records to add to your family history’.”

We had hoped that she might be Betty Jean’s real, live sister but she wasn’t. She was a real, live first cousin instead. A first cousin who had gotten me in touch with her real, live first cousin, Ike. As soon as her test came back as a cousin and not a sister I called Ike immediately. He was the possible clue to Betty Jean’s Adoption. I told him the test for his cousin was just that, a DNA test result showing her to be the first cousin of Betty Jean as well.

The Next DNA Test

Ike was more than happy, almost excited, to find the answer to this mystery. I ordered his test from FTDNA and we waited again for five or so weeks. Weeks of waiting to solve this 90 year adoption mystery. To reveal this secret.

The Secret Revealed? Well, Partially

We checked for the results nearly daily when four weeks had past. We checked so much that we knew the results were in before FTDNA had a chance to send the notification. At this early stage the results weren’t complete but still filtering through FTDNA’s system. Nail biting and grinding of teeth ensued. Finally they were complete and…

Glenn Cashion is Betty Jean’s Father

Glenn Cashion. He lived in Asheville in 1926/7 and his son Ike matches Betty Jean as a half sibling. Betty Jean looks like her father in so many ways it’s almost uncanny. Would they have recognized each other if they had met on the street? Would Glenn have acknowledged his resemblance in a strangers face?

Glenn Cashion PhotoHow did it happen? How did Betty Jean come about? We have no idea. It was a secret he kept to his death.

When Glenn married and started a family of his own, he named his first Child Betty. Betty Glenn Cashion was named for his grandmother, Emily Elizabeth “Betty” Asbury. Looking at this while we were searching, I always though it interesting that Glenn had named his first daughter Betty, when he might have been our Betty Jean’s father as well. I thought that this was a clue to the fact that he might be Betty X’s father. Instinct vs. fact is sometimes very interesting.

Glenn is…

“My Dad is a winner. He was the gem of the family. Glenn was giving and worked hard for Shriner’s charities, helped family with money when they needed it, even when they didn’t ask. He took care of family – he was a nice man.” – Ike Cashion

Ike didn’t say this to make the secret of Betty Jean right. It was not said in defense of whatever actions his father took in 1926/7, it was said just as a matter of fact. Glenn Cashion was a good guy.

Onward to work and research deeper and to find Betty Jean’s Mother…

Jane's Desk
Genealogical Researcher Jane’s desk.

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Betty Jean’s Adoption Search – DNA, Finding Patterns

Finding the patterns in genetic genealogy research is really a fundamental thing we do when looking for the clues to our roots. Even in traditional genealogy, looking at a pedigree chart reveals patterns in geographical locations, dates and names which help our research. Looking for patterns is not new, even if we don’t realize we do it.

How do we find the patterns are we looking for? Spreadsheets?

Betty Jean’s Raw Data is file loaded to GEDmatch. If we do a One to Many matches analysis we can capture the entire results list via cut and paste, and insert it into a spreadsheet. We can grab similar results lists from most of the DNA testing or results companies. Getting all the formats similar in a spreadsheet takes some juggling and tweaking but it’s worth it. It is made easier by learning how to create things like separate first, middle, maiden and last name entries by converting text to columns and using filters to clean-up the columns. Sorting is a whiz, once you have all the information in a sortable state.

Sort your spreadsheets by Chromosome, Segment Locations and Last Name and you have a pretty clear view to the people on the sheets who share your DNA and where they share it.

Who do your Matches Belong to? What Familial Surname?

Don’t get that? Who is a matches MCRA (Most common Recent Ancestor) in common with you? Some of the files you download from the various companies give you common surnames. Well that helps, doesn’t it? Sometimes? They also show how many Generations back you might share one of those surnames (some people have 50 or more Surnames). That’s it. That is the answer!

Try adding each of those surnames to a sheet individually or using the text to columns conversion and…

Family Trees and Pedigree Charts

Aside from adding columns upon columns of surnames to your spread sheet there really isn’t any way (that I know of) to add a pedigree or family tree to a spreadsheet – it might be doable, but…I don’t have enough finger tips or time for that.

There are great places where you can upload your GEDCOM to a DNA testing or analysis site, but the DNA isn’t in any way correlated with the tree. It’s just there and you have to use your brain and knowledge of what you are working on to make any sense of it. ESPECIALLY if it’s further back than a generation or so.

But I have something…

I was at a conference in the spring of 2016 where some of the current icons of Genetic Genealogy were a part of a Panel Discussion on the future of Genetic Genealogy. Something brought up by one of the Panelists was that we don’t really have anywhere to make the connection between a World Family Tree and DNA.

Small Rant?

I was a bit shocked and dismayed that not one of these Genetic Genealogy Icons brought up WikiTree. WikiTree, where genealogists collaborate on a true, single, world family tree. WikiTree, where I, you, them, anyone can add all current and future DNA test’s and have the test information auto-populate every single ancestor with that test information. For auDNA tests, back to at least our 64-4th great grandparents. For Y and mtDNA tests back into the depths of our shared pedigree. WikiTree even maps XDNA for it’s DNA tested members! WikiTree, where if something happens (in so many different scenarios), will carry on with nothing more than a hiccup for ever and ever – really. Not ONE mention.

What I use daily in my work is the WikiTree DNA Sandbox.
DNA Sandbox
WikiTree DNA Sandbox

This is where I start looking for patterns that aren’t obvious or easy to correlate anywhere else.

Take GEDmatch and it’s GEDCOM + DNA tool. I can scroll down a list of people to see the pedigrees of my matches. Once I find a Pedigree that matches, I run a One to One comparison. Then I cut and paste the One to One Match comparison information to a section for the match into the DNA Sandbox.

The section titles show the match name and shared chromosome numbers.  If I continue this process over time it will start to reveal patterns:

With this view I can start to make connections between specific Chromosomes and Familial Surnames. It will also show outliers – matches who probably don’t belong to a specific familial surname group even though at first blush they may appear to belong. Try working on the Smith family of NY and see how many matches with the last name Smith are outliers to YOUR Smith family.

Partial Table of Contents for DNA Sandbox
Partial view of the table of Contents for DNA Sandbox

In the table of contents for the DNA Sandbox you can get a peak into those patterns. Take the mtDNA Matches. Obviously matches 3.1.3 to 3.1.5 need some further looking into as do the paternal haplogroup matches 4.1.3-5.1.5. Since these DNA matches posted their mtDNA and YDNA haplogroups information in their auDNA results on GEDMatch we are able to see right off the bat, from the title sections, that they share Chromosome 15. Do they share overlapping segments? A quick look at the meat of the information and…

Information showing segment locations and generations
Information showing segment locations and generations

Yes two do. Granted, they are distant connections – 5.1 generations to 6.1 generations – but they do overlap. If I can figure out the MCRA and add a familial surname to this grouping? It’s a HUGE step toward finding more matches that share Chromosome 15 with you who also are in this Familial Surname grouping.

Betty Jean’s DNA Sandbox

Betty Jean? Where is she in all this? Well, back in the Spring when we started her search for her birth family, I started her WikiTree DNA Sandbox.

Bit and Pieces become patterns

Working steadily with small bits and pieces of data from different testing companies, I pasted data into her sandbox. It started with her highest DNA match on 23andme, her first cousin once removed, who is also an adoptee. We’ll call her Pat (she is very much still in the midst of figuring out her own identity and dealing with the emotional roller coaster that comes with finding ones birth family).

Pat’s information wasn’t sitting alone in the sandbox for long. 12 of Betty Jean’s top 15 matches belonged to the same family – the Howard’s and the Brotherton’s. All these people had either had their DNA tested on their own or were prodded by Jane to get their tests done to help in finding Pat’s birth family. Lucky Betty Jean again, having Jane in her corner.

Patterns Emerge

So within a few weeks, adding Betty Jean’s one to one matches, researching the pedigrees and using the number of cM (centimorgens) – “In genetics, a centimorgan (abbreviated cM) or map unit (m.u.) is a unit for measuring genetic linkage. It is defined as the distance between chromosome positions (also termed loci or markers) for which the expected average number of intervening chromosomal crossovers in a single generation is 0.01.) WikiPedia
 – and the generations estimate, her sandbox began to show patterns. Surnames began to have specific chromosomes connected to them.

As Jane and I worked, I compiled a list of Surnames for Betty. Surnames to use and Surnames to discount. If a pedigree or tree leads to one of the discounted Surnames? Then attention can be focused elsewhere. The list, added to the Sandbox, includes links within WikiTree to the MCRA for a specific Surname in the line. With the sandbox filling up, jumping around the great big ole shared tree with ease, working WikiTree’s relationship tools as well as the DNA tools, I was finding answers in a flash.

Fully Customize the sandbox to your level of expertise and knowledge

And there is no hard and fast rule about what goes into the sandbox. Some have graphics with triangulated groups. Some have Haplogroup information by Surname. All have the ability to make finding answers in the DNA connected world tree that is WikiTree an easier thing to do.

Now, after this VERY long post, I need to go find some patterns in nature for a while. Does Blueberry pie get cold FAST in -2 degree weather? an experiment I must try.

 

Got an “Oh Wow” Today!

Nothing earth shattering, but wanted to share my selfish pleasure today. I went for an “Oh Wow” and got it. At first innocently, then when I realized that an “Oh Wow” was imminent, well, I went full out to make sure it happened!

I am helping my friend Ted with his family mystery. To find the answers, I am reviewing his new auDNA results and contacting individuals to see if they might help with the family mystery. Sent out 20 or so emails on Friday and have not heard a peep.

in a day or so I had a gentleman contact me about Ted’s match to him. Great!

I helped Ron (Ted’s match) get his DNA data downloaded from FTDNA and uploaded into GEDmatch. Ron’s expectations were, well, not high? After running a specific analysis for him on GEDmatch while on the phone his interest was piqued. There was something in the way he spoke that made me think he had no idea that my description of GEDmatch would be exactly what I said, he would have many more matches there.

Still, sitting with him on the phone – live – yes Genetic Genealogists do things with live people – I had him plug his GEDmatch number into a one-to-many matches and waited.

He said, “Oh WOW” and made my day! Literally, OH WOW!

 

Genetic Genealogy Discoveries

The past seven or so days have been full of discoveries.

Discovery One

This one isn’t a big one, but it is certainly a good one. Rick’s sister contacted me to try and find out to which of the five Campbell Clans her particular Campbell’s might belong. Since Rick is the only male line descendant in her family Rick agreed to test. His results are in and he is very Scottish, according the Campbell DNA Project Administrator who sent me a good bit of information on the Campbell DNA Project and even more information on Rick’s possible matches (2 at a distance of 1 on 37). I also ran across a Campbell DNA project results paper (The Campbell DNA Project – An Update by Kevin Campbell) that he did in the projects infancy which gives information on speculative connections to “a common ancestor in Sir Gillespic Cambel of Lochawe who lived circa. 1350.” I have an email in to him to see if there is a similar update to this paper that is more current. Needless to say I am very impressed with the Campbell DNA Project Admin.

Discovery Two

A client who’s family history claimed to be unconnected to a possible US Slave or Freedman received his results. His request was that we look for his real last name – the last name of the Caucasian boy orphaned and raised by this Freedman. He did a Y-DNA 111 and the results show he is Haplogroup E-M2 which is of African origin. Certainly not what the family lore has said for generations. As to the last name? This is something still in the works. If he is indeed the son of the Freedman, then the last name is problematic. We might know what the Freedman called himself while he lived as a Freedman.  But a US Slave often took the name of his Master. Even when sold to a new master the Slave might take the name of the new Master. There are no cut and dried rules to follow on names used by Slaves. When you get right down to it though, the real last name of the family would be found somewhere in West Africa. Where to go from here? That would be up to the client.

Discovery Three

We have been working with a client since last January. She is my adoptive cousin. I called her wanting to find out what information she might have on our family. As soon as I told her what I was calling about she said, “You know I am adopted” and I answered yes I did. We continued talking about the papers she has and other information about our shared family over a few phone calls. At some point she talked to me about her search for her birth family. How, when she and her late husband had gone to Asheville, NC to look into getting a copy of her files she was told, that she wouldn’t be able to because there was nothing in her file.

I told her that that was one of the things I do, I search for adoptees birth families and that I did it using DNA and traditional genealogy. I explained how DNA could help her and she agreed to take a test. The whole story is for another series of blog postings, but in the 11 months of searching and researching and testing probable cousins we have found her last name – Cashion. The Discovery? We have found her first cousin and with this knowledge another possible very close relative who sent his DNA off to FamilyTree DNA on Monday. A first cousin? A brother? A half nephew? We should know in six weeks or so. I know, the TV shows make it look like these things happen over night, but for this 90 year old Adoptee the answers are long overdue.

Now I need to bake a blueberry pie to celebrate all these great discoveries!