What’s Happening in the DNA World

Starting last Wednesday, Feb. 28th 2018 thru Saturday, March 3rd   2018, I attended RootsTech 2018, thru online streaming. RootsTech probably the largest genealogy conference in the world (I don’t know of one bigger, but someone might call me out on that.) This article is long, but it is one that I hope you will all want to read in its entirety.

According to the reports I have heard, there were 25,000 attendees, and 50,000 who watched via livestreaming. I watched over 14 hours of seminars, plus several more hours of keynote speakers, on many genealogy related subjects. I have done this now for several years. I look forward to it each year as I learn a lot of things that are very helpful in my family research.

This year I watched 4 hour long seminars on DNA testing, and then about 2 additional hours of keynote speakers, etc. on the subject of DNA testing and the future of DNA for genealogists. All of the major DNA testing companies had presentations. I watched one from each of Ancestry, Living DNA, & MyHeritage. I know there were others that I was unable to watch, as the livestreaming was limited in the number of seminars available via livestreaming.

I was blown away with how DNA testing for genealogy has grown over the last couple of decades, and I was totally blown away when I heard what is coming in the future, and that is very near being reality.

Let me give you an analogy (aware that my family says I am not very good at analogies, but here goes anyway.)

Do you all remember when Dick Tracy had that wristwatch that he could actually talk on? Then remember when he had one that had a TV screen on it? Well we have had the ability to talk into a device where ever we are at, and that is known as a cell phone. Now we have iPads, and Androids, and Skype, where we can virtually communicate, face to face, with each other anywhere in the world, in real time. All those inventions have come into existence in my life time.

Now remember Star Trek (Beam me up Scotty), or the Holodeck—It’s reality now folks. You now can buy glasses attached to a headset, where you can experience a “virtual world” where you can virtually simulate any experience you want.

So just what in the world is the next thing coming our way?

DNA folks—that’s the area on the “new innovations horizon”, right now.  We are all going to be blown away with what is actually being tested right now. In the testing world of genealogy, if you hear the term, “it’s in Betta testing”, that means its reality now, and they are just working on getting the “bugs” out of the systems before all of us can use it.

Several in this group took DNA tests back in 2005. Very little was able to be done with it, and you had to pretty much know the right people and hope that they would share the information with you. Those that took those tests back then did not have a very good experience.

I remember when Ancestry came out with the Autosomal DNA tests, and because of that the y-DNA test and the mtDNA tests have sort of gone by the wayside—but not totally. Now LivingDNA’s test is a one-stop shop which includes all three types of testing in one test. That has just occurred within the last year.

Also it was just a few short years ago that the number of people testing with Ancestry was in the thousands. Now it is in the millions. My Heritage has millions upon millions now worldwide. In this day and age, the real possibility of having a World Wide DNA Tree is not science fiction, but is very much a current reality.

And what is in the “IMMEDIATE FUTURE WILL BLOW YOUR MIND”, it did mine. Just watch this video from the founder and CEO of MyHeritage. I am putting the link here, but this video is going to be in the Legacy Family Tree Webinar Library for FREE.

But “Spoiler Alert”, near the end of the video he talks about the ability to “re-create” the DNA of our ancestors, and to create a holographic image of them. Really folks—it’s here. It has already been tested, and it works. We will be able to see their faces—eye color, hair color (receding, bald, or whatever), and a reconstructed image of the shape of their faces, including their heights and other identifying characteristics.

And “Spoiler Alert again”, for those of you, like me that have spent years chasing down the “paper trail” to prove our lineage, there is great news on the horizon—also same thing—it’s here now, it is in Betta testing—we will be presented with a virtual tree (better described as a “theory tree”, where our DNA matches we now have, along with tremendous advances in digitizing records from around the world, and along with new technologies with the online trees(documented trees), will be able to give us a “theory” of what our tree really is, so we can know exactly where the documents are that we need get to “prove” our tree.

That was a long sentence, and I may have not explained it very well, so just watch this video. Folks we are in for mind-boggling new innovations in our genealogy quest for knowing our ancestors.

Personally I can’t wait to break down my brick walls, and from what I saw at the RootsTech conference, this is going to be a couple great years for genealogy coming up.


I’m Beginning to Love DNA

I was introduced to DNA back in March of 2016 when I got my Ancestry DNA results back. Prior to that time, I was interested in DNA, but literally knew nothing about it. I am one who studies a subject a lot, especially when it is as complicated as DNA. My studies prior to getting my results, left me in what I would call “DNA No-man’s Land.” The desire to have my DNA done was great but, my–my–oh was I confused about what the results meant.

In my previous blog about DNA, I stated guidelines that I feel are important for anyone new to doing DNA to consider. I still stand by those.

But for those who want to really learn more than just having a nice printout of your potential ethnicity, here’s what I recommend.

  1. Start with watching the five part series of Legacy Webinars on DNA Foundations, by Blaine Bettinger at:  http://familytreewebinars.com/    They are fantastic, and will give you not only a basic overall understanding of DNA, but will especially help you know which kind of DNA test you will be wanting to use.  In addition to the basics, they cover:
    1. Y-DNA
    2. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
    3. Autosomal DNA (atDNA)
  2. If you are still confused, Legacy has about twenty webinars on DNA, and more coming.
  3. After all of that, I still felt like a novice, and purchased Blaine Bettinger’s newest book: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic GenealogyI just received it last week, and I am learning so much from it. It covers it all–in detail.
  4. If, you have chosen atDNA through Ancestry, then your next step is to upload your raw data to GEDmatch.com. It’s free and adds a whole lot more potential matches with lots of tools to help you understand what your data means. You can also upload that same data to FamilyTreeDNA.

I chose Autosomal DNA thru Ancestry.com and I recommend it for those just starting to use DNA. It is most helpful for finding cousins, which is what most of us really want to do. I have bounced around with the idea of having my Y-DNA done, but it is much more expensive, and frankly, I am finding out that I have only touched the surface of how powerful Autosomal DNA is. So I am a long way from doing any Y-DNA test. Until I come up with a very significant reason for spending that kind of money, I want to make sure that I have gotten to most out of my Autosomal DNA test.

As for which company to get your DNA test done, I definitely would suggest getting it done thru Ancestry.com. All the three major companies charge about the same, (approx. $100) but with your test from Ancestry you can upload your raw data to FamilyTreeDNA, so you do not have to spend more money. I am not sure if you can upload your DNA to 23andme, so I won’t speculate on that.  Then once you have the results from Ancestry, upload your raw data to GEDmatch.com.

After reading Bettinger’s latest book, and also being lucky enough to run into a genetic genealogy expert on one of my Facebook groups, who helped me understand what I was doing, I feel much more competent and I have made significant progress in using my DNA matches, and circles. Watch for more DNA blogs here and on my Swisher Research Blog page.
















Basic Guidelines for Doing Your DNA

If you are interested in doing your DNA, here are some guidelines that I think are extremely important.

  1. First, your DNA is your property and you should treat it as such.

Let me use an analogy that I think most everyone can relate to. Most of us, at one time or another, have owned a car. As an owner of a car we had to pay property tax on it, which although not much fun, was proof that, that car belonged to us and no one else. If that car was a bright and shiny brand new one, or a restored antique that we slaved over getting into pristine shape, it was very doubtful that we would loan that car to just anyone. In addition, we definitely would not give them the title to the car to carry around with them while they were driving that car. If we did, we might just as well kiss that car good by because with that title, they essentially became the owner, not you.

  1. There are many testing companies doing DNA, so how do I know which one(s) to use?

I started researching everything I could about DNA at least two years ago. In my opinion, there are two categories of DNA testing companies. It is important to understand the difference between them.

  • Category 1 includes a multitude of DNA projects, sponsored by individuals, groups, etc., many times created to research out a certain family, or group of families, or connect to a common ancestor.

I do not recommend using any of these companies, or groups. There is a good chance that someone would offer to pay for the DNA test, so they can see if you are related to them, especially the common ancestor that they are trying to research in that group. Sounds good on the surface but remember what I said, that your DNA is your property. When they offer to pay for your DNA test, or if you pay for it yourself, they usually expect that when they get the results back, the DNA results belong to them and their database, not you! Depending on the integrity of the group administrators, you may or may not ever see the results that you were hoping to receive. If you truly are interested in that group, there is a better way to help them, and you and I’ll describe it later.

  • Category 2 includes three major DNA testing companies. They are “AncestryDNA”, “23 and me”, and “FTDNA” (Family Tree DNA). These are well known, fairly even in cost, but have some major differences in how you can use the results. Each of these have differences in what you get for your money and what you can do with the results. I’ll not go into those differences here.

In my opinion, AncestryDNA is by far the best choice on the market today. If you want to know more of my reasoning, just send me a private message and I’ll be glad to share.

  • They only offer the Autosomal DNA test. Over the last few years, the tests available were either “Y-DNA” (only for male ancestors), or “mtDNA” (only for females), the Autosomal DNA tests everyone, both on the paternal side and the maternal side.
  • In addition, you have the opportunity to do more with the results. For instance, once you get the results, you can download the “raw data” and upload it into other companies database. That is what I have done and I’ll explain it a little later.
  • It takes about 6-8 weeks to get your results after you send in your DNA sample, which is a vial filled with your spit, that’s all. The kit you receive has an identification number only and therefore your personal information is private, and not shared by anyone.
  • When you get the results, you get three things. First, an ethnicity graph (which is nice, but in my opinion, not that useful). Second, a list of matches, ranked by the most likely to be a match. Third, a list of all the DNA circles that you are a member of.
    • The matches give you immediate contact information to pursue to find out if you really are related.
    • The DNA circles are like the groups you belong to on Facebook. You have friends in Swisher Genealogy,(my companion Facebook Group,) that are not friends in other groups you are in. So if you are in a DNA circle, you can count on their most likely being a relative there, and contact information is provided.
    • This information changes as more people test their DNA. On day one for me I had 52 close matches (2nd cousin to 4th cousin range) and over 200 additional possible matches. I also had about 8 different DNA circles. Each day those lists vary a little, based on newly added DNA database information.
  1. After I received my AncestryDNA results, I download the “raw data.”

 By itself, it is useless for you to work with. It comes in a ZIP file, because it is so large it has to be compressed for you to receive it. Make sure you keep that ZIP file. It is your property. You will need it to upload to another company called GEDmatch.com. By the way, after I uploaded my raw data to GEDmatch, I did also open an unzipped file of the raw data. It was over 700 pages long, and virtually meaningless to me.

Next I uploaded a copy of that zip file to GedMatch.com

  • com is a company that is totally FREE. They operate on donations only, if you desire to donate.
  • com asks you to upload your “raw data” in the “ZIP” format. Once done, they have many different tools to assist you in locating relatives.
  • Optional, but very useful to your search is to also upload a GEDcom. That way potential matches can see if it is worth their time to contact you.
  • For instance, when I uploaded my file, I also had to supply my Kit #. Everyone that contributes to their database includes their Kit #, from whatever company they used. Their database includes not only the autosomal DNA, but the Y-DNA and the mtDNA, each with the appropriate kit #, so one can look for matches in their database and see exactly how close a match there is across all formats.
  • GEDMatch works perfectly well as a companion to AncestryDNA, and I have been able to find cousins very quickly because I used it.
  • If you want to help out one of those groups in Category 1, that I talked about earlier, this is the way to do so. They can have access to your data, via GEDMatch, and your data is still owned by you.

So bottom line, I hope many of you will have a better understanding about how doing a DNA test, works, and how quickly it can help those who are serious about researching for their ancestors and cousins. Just be prepared to be sending and receiving quite a few emails. One aspect I have not talked about is how to keep track of all this new information and contact information. That is a whole separate issue and I will share in another post.

And lastly, please remember that your DNA is your property. Don’t give it away, but do use it to help your research.