31 December 2008

DNA Success Stories

Success, a relevant term, is defined as an achievement, an accomplishment, a triumph, or a victory. It is measured by some as a great progress and by others as tiny steps. Regardless, it is in the “eye of the beholder.”

In Genetic Genealogy success takes many forms. It can mean finding the ancestors beyond our current brick wall; finding new cousins and persons related to us who can help with the research; finding birth parents or, at least, the biological surname; or determining who isn’t related so we can focus on others branches of the surname.

DNA success has resulted from testing the all male (Ydna) and the all female (mtDNA) lines. Although it is easier to test and research the male lineage, when success is found with the female lines it is huge. Many success stories for both types of tests have been submitted to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy and may be viewed at by clicking on the link SUCCESS STORIES on the left at the website: http://www.isogg.org/

Below are a few examples sent to me recently. Each of the submitters feels their DNA testing has some level of success:

After twenty-five years of genealogical research at the libraries in Georgia, Georgia Archives, National Archives (Atlanta Branch), South Carolina Archives, North Carolina Archives, Library of Virginia and three trips to the UK and Ireland, I gave up on my Smith surname! However, you know genealogist's never really give up, so I resolved to use DNA as a last resort to discover the ancestry of my maiden name, SMITH. All of my other lines were easy to trace for many generations, but SMITH was impossible.

The next step was to find a living male SMITH in my line to test for me. I am an only child, my father is deceased, I do not have Smith uncles, and there are no male Smith first cousins. Finally, I found a Smith second cousin who agreed to test for me. I paid for a 12 marker test, but those results were insignificant. I upgraded to 25 and found to my surprise that I was not really connected to Smith's. An upgrade to 37 and finally 67 markers indicate that my surname is probably Dulin or Doolin.

I wanted to be sure that I had not discovered some recent NPE (Non-parental event) among just my Smith great, great, grandparents. Thus, I searched and found another Smith second cousin and finally convinced him to encourage a male Smith in his direct line to test. He tested at 67 markers and his Y-DNA indicate Dulin/Doolin as well.

Ah-Ha! How exciting! We must be Dulin's. A name change or a NPE must have occurred in the mid to late 1700's in the US or Ireland.

I searched for Dulin's in George and according to census records, I found several Dulin families living near my Smiths in the early 1800's. That is where I am in my research now. I can't prove any connection to those Dulin's. I know my Smith's are Irish because all my other ancestors in that area of Georgia are from Ireland. One of my trips took me through Doolin, Ireland a few years ago. I wish I had known this then.

Without Y-DNA, I never would have this. I wish I could prove this with a paper trail and maybe someday I will find the common ancestor that ties my Smiths and the Dulin/Dooln lines together, but for now, DNA has proved I am a Dulin/Doolin.

--Charlotte Smith Winsness


DNA testing has proved some of my theories about the TULEY surname.

1. Phonics matters. Tuley and Tooley are related, but Tuley and Talley are not related.

2. The Indiana Tuley's and the Virginia Tuley's are related, even though the documentation no longer exists, if it ever did.

Now I know only to focus on Tuley and Tooley spellings and their variants.

--Glenn Tuley


My family has been in the Americas since the 1600’s while others were already here. I consider my self the original “Melting Pot” Scottish, Irish, Dutch, French and Native American.

I started the DNA search because I wanted to see if my Grandmother was indeed Cherokee as she had said. She had told us that her mother had papers and that when her mother died in 1894, she went to Missouri to live with her relatives. Her aunt made her burn her papers in a wood stove. I thought they were just embarrassed; however, after reviewing the trouble Native Americans went through in the mid to later 1800’s I guess she destroyed them for self-preservation. Anyway, I had a direct line from me back through my mother 6 generations to Jane (Jennie) Williams Tally (Her mother appears to have been a Hays so this will follow the Hays Family). I completed my mtDNA; alas, I discovered the unique properties of the mtDNA it went 6,500 years back to Alpine Europe with a haplogroup of J1a. Only one other person, in the whole data base matches me. Not quite what I had expected, but those Europeans were creative.

I found out you have to trace the right ancestor for the results you want. That probably would be John Tally Sr.’s first wife (a Native American probably from the Chickasaw Tribe). Of course there were three boys and no daughters so with out knowing her family and sisters, there is no way to trace her mtDNA.

Though I did not get the mtDNA results I had expected, the research did help me to find relatives 3 more generations back and a lot of wonderful relatives out there in the cyber space who are pursuing the same things, and sharing their information!

I again, am a Corbin, comes from the Latin “Corbi” meaning Raven. It is an old name, several different coats-of- arms from many countries. We were always told we came from Peter Corbin, of Pickens County, SC we had been having trouble making the jump from my Great-Great Grandfather William Riley Corbin to Peter. (We thought it was Peter’s Son David, but we were not sure.). When I joined the surname project for the Corbin’s I connected, again, with wonderful, unknown relatives who helped me clarify this data. I ended up testing my Ydna and, yes it goes back to Peter. Each cousin is from a different son of Peter yet we all match. Haplogroup: R1b1b2a1b4

No one else matched; we only appear to match to each other. We now know for a fact as far back as Peter. This provided the data to all my cousins who descend from James Franklin Corbin. The research also created other avenues to travel (i.e., William Riley Corbin’s wife “Rosanna Barnett” goes all the way back and proven to Jamestown Colony.) We now know she also goes back to Pocahontas. This is my father’s side. The Bunch Family on my mother’s side always said they also went back to Pocahontas, and the Book “Parks/Bunch the Trail West” by Alice Crandall also says this. On a side note, it appears that my male Tally line is also from haplogroup R1b.

--Johnny Corbin

DNA testing proved a family rumor true for me. It was rumored that my paternal grandmother had an affair with a man called Lambert, which may have led to my father's birth. My father, however, was given the last name Johnson, after his purported father. I recently got tested and was found to match a Lambert in the pool! I have since found my father's true siblings (though they are not interested in knowing us), and the names of my paternal grandparents.

--Ed Johnson


This story started in Feb. 2005. I submitted a DNA sample from a male WILLIAMS. At that time there were 120 members in that Project. April 2005 a 12/12 match with a WILLIAMS sample in Tennessee. And we had an R1a Haplogroup estimated which was rare in the WILLIAMS Project.

By Sept. 2007 our little group had grown to five members. One was the son of the first DNA match, another was a known cousin of his. But none is a closer match to "my" (or "our") sample than the first one which was 34/37. My paper trail is still stuck in Kentucky, and his is in Tennessee, reaching toward North Carolina.

My county in Kentucky and his county in Tennessee are pretty close together. It is possible that someone 'crossed over', but I have no clue when nor who.

There are some close matches with other surnames, but I see nothing conclusive. One is in England, not the U.S.A.

--Kay Chestnut

Many thanks to the contributors. Their kindness in sharing their DNA adventures may help others understand the usefulness of DNA testing for genealogy. If anyone finds a connection to the families mentioned, I would be happy to forward a message from you to the contributor. (I do not give out emails without permission.)

To submit any DNA success story, please email me directly at Aulicino@hevanet.com
I will be featuring these stories from time to time.

©Aulicino, 22 Dec 2008

23 December 2008

National Genographic DNA Project Sale

The National Geographic Society just sent me the following email. They are reducing their testing price until January 2nd.

You may know your family’s ROOTS, but do you know your family’s ROUTES? As an important blogger for avid genealogists, we would like to extend a special holiday discount on our Genographic Project Public Participation Kits for you to share with your readers. Many readers of your blog know about their recent genealogy, but do they know about their deep ancestry? This holiday season tell them how they can give their family and friends the chance to join the Genographic Project – a real-time research initiative that uses DNA as a study tool to find out about their deep ancestry.

Have them visit: https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/lan/en/participate.html The kit normally sells for $100 (+shipping and handling), but a special discount code GKHOL08 at checkout takes $10 off the price (valid through January 2, 2009). After sending in DNA with a painless cheek swab, interactive results are delivered anonymously online and detail a personal treasure 'map' of an ancient journey - starting at the cradle of humanity, in Africa, approximately 60,000 years ago. Participating is also a way of ‘giving back’ this holiday season.

Proceeds from the sales of the participation kits go directly to the Genographic Legacy Fund, which supports indigenous and traditional peoples community-led projects aiming to revitalize their languages and cultures. As well, at no additional cost, participants can upload their results to FamilyTreeDNA and participate in surname projects, geographic projects, and DNA marker matches. The Genographic Project seeks to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species and answer age-old questions surrounding the genetic diversity of humanity. The project is a nonprofit, global research partnership of National Geographic and IBM with field support by the Waitt Family Foundation. The three core components of the project are: Field Research, Public Participation and the Legacy Fund. Our website and kits are now available in English, Spanish, French and German! Visit our website, http://nationalgeographic.com/genographic, to learn more about the project and read about some of the exciting new studies being published through the Genographic Consortium, happening as a direct result of project participation worldwide! If you have any questions or are interested in highlighting the Genographic Project Public Participation Kit this holiday season, please do not hesitate to visit our website at www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic

For more information contact: genographic@ngs.org or phone: 202-857-7777

Please find attached a copy of our holiday discount promotional email.

Lindsey K. Larson

The attached hoiday discount promotional:

Join the more than 300,000 individuals who are discovering their deep ancestry and adding their own leaves to the human family tree.National Geographic and IBM's Genographic Project invites you and your family to take part in an exciting real-time research initiative — using DNA as a study tool — to find out the path of your deep ancestry.

This holiday season, 'give back' while discovering something about your family's ancient migratory routes. The purchase of a Genographic Project Public Participation Kit directly supports the Genographic Legacy Fund, providing grants to indigenous and traditional communities with community-led projects seeking to preserve their culture and language.As a special Genographic Project holiday offer*, click here to order a kit. Use code GKHOL08 at check out to receive $10 off your Genographic Kit. Now available in English, Spanish, French and German. Offer ends January 2, 2009.

12 December 2008

Wikipedia: The free online, interactive encyclopedia

Most everyone knows about Wikipedia, and that the resource is considered as accurate as any encyclopedia since readers continually update and repair any misstatements. There are multitudes of pages on any subject, but here we are interested only in Genetic Genealogy. Although the depth of knowledge for the topic can be extensive, for the novice, this is a real gem.

To see an overview of Genetic Genealogy, either search for Wikipedia + Genetic Genealogy in your Browser or go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_genealogy

This site provides reasons for testing and addresses the concerns people have regarding testing. There are many books and online resources as well.

Below are only a few of the links listed on this page:

Allele frequency
Genealogical DNA test
Genetic recombination
Human mitochondrial DNA haplogroups
Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups
Human mitochondrial genetics
Most recent common ancestor
Short tandem repeat (STR)
Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)
Y-STR (Y-chromosome short tandem repeat)
Y-DNA haplogroups by ethnic groups

Be sure to click on the link for Genealogical DNA Testing

This section has information on the terms haplotype, haplogroup, SNP, and STRs as well as they types of tests and understanding various tests.

Other topics in this section include:
Genetic fingerprinting
Genetic genealogy
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
Genetic testing
HARRIS Surname DNA Project
International HapMap Project
List of DNA tested mummies
List of haplogroups of historical and famous figures
List of DYS markers
List of Y-STR public databases
Mitochondrial DNA
Paternity test
Short tandem repeat
Single nucleotide polymorphism

Do not be overwhelmed by the information here; the novice does not need to consume all this information. Information is provided for any level of interest and this site is most helpful for DNA project administrators, as well.

Wikipeida provides one location you can locate a topic for which you desire more information and just click!

The International Society of Genetic Genealogy has also provided much information to help the beginner genetic genealogist. It would be beneficial to join the non-profit group (no cost to you, your information is not given or sold, and the only requirement is to spread the word about genetic testing for genealogy) and subscribe to their email list. I would caution you to view it online or in digest. This email list will help you learn more about how genetic genealogy helps your research, the site provides many files and links to assist you, the email list will allow you to ask any question regarding DNA and get advice from those more knowledgeable. The list is monitored by some experts in the field.

To join ISOGG:


Tell them you learned about this from my blog.

For a glossary of terms to help you with genetic genealogy and to use for your interenet searches:


©aulicino 5 December 2008

25 November 2008

Family Tree DNA Announces Holiday Gift

Greetings Everyone!

Family Tree DNA just sent a post to all of its administrators, and I'm pleased to inform you that the company has announced their annual Holiday gift to all of us. They have reduced their prices until December 31. See the email below.

Please share this information with anyone you know interested in testing. Perhaps you want to get a holiday gift for someone you wish to test. Perhaps you wish to keep a kit on hand for visiting your family. You can order the test now and return it when you find a tester, also. If you are having a family reunion in 2009, now would be the time to order several kits to have on hand. If you do not expose the kit to heat, it will last without a problem.

Let me know if you have any questions.

You can also share these steps for ordering a test. GFO is a local genealogical society that takes Ydna and mtDNA for anyone, and you do not have to be a member. I run this group, also, so I can help your tester. By going through my blog you allow the company to give me a few cents on the dollars you spend. This keeps up my spirits! LOL

To order a DNA test and receive the reduced price you must go through an existing project...
1. Go to: http://genealem-geneticgenealogy.blogspot.com/
2. Go to the bottom right and click on the FTDNA icon.
3. Where it says SEARCH on the right side, type in GFO (or your surname for male testers, if there is an established project at FTDNA for that surname.)
4. On the next page, click on GFO (or the appropriate surname, if there is a current project.) 5. Complete the form. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on JOIN.

Email me if you have questions before you order your test.

NOTE: IF you do not see the FTDNA icon on the right of this blog, email me directly at: aulicino@hevanet.com

Family Tree DNA wrote:

Dear Family Tree DNA Group Administrator,

In keeping with our end-of-the-year tradition, effective November 26th, 2008 we'll institute special pricing at Family Tree DNA for your new-kit-purchasing participants. The products that will be offered at the special prices are:

.............Y-DNA37 $119
.............Y-DNA37+mtDNAPlus $199
.............Y-DNA67 $218
.............Y-DNA67+mtDNAPlus $308
.............mtDNAPlus $139
.............Full Genomic mtDNA $395
.............SuperDNA $613

This offer is good until December 31st, 2008 for kits ordered and paid for by that time.

Email me directly if you have any questions.

aulicino, 25 Nov 2008

20 November 2008

DNA -- A Foreign Language

Most people who attend a DNA lecture for the first time walk away with more questions than they may have had before the presentation. That definitely sounds as if understanding DNA is greatly difficult or the presenter cannot deliver the information in an understandable form. In truth, understanding how DNA testing works and how it benefits genealogy is very simple once you learn the language.

If you have taken a foreign language you know that repetition is one of the best ways to retain the knowledge. You also know that you cannot learn a great deal in one session. These are true of understanding Genetic Genealogy, the use of DNA Testing to aid traditional genealogical research.

SO…how do you push this new language into your brain?

Like learning a new language, you must understand some new words. Although there are hundreds of terms associated with DNA, the average person only needs to know a few basic ones.

1. Y-chromosome DNA (Y-dna) – The sex chromosome which determines that a person is male. Men have both their father’s Y-chromosome and their mother’s X chromosome. Women have an X chromosome from their father and one from their mother. The Y-chromosome has passed from father to son virtually unchanged since mankind began. This is why we can test a living male and determine the DNA signature of his all male line (top line of a pedigree chart) back to the beginning. These tests are referred to as Ydna tests. There are several levels of Ydna tests and each designates the number of markers which are tested. For example, Family Tree DNA tests 12, 25, 37, and 67 markers on the Y-chromosome.

2. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – The mitochondria is outside the nucleus of a cell. It contains 16,568 base pairs. The part of the mitochondria that is tested for genealogy purposes is the non-coding/control region, meaning it rarely changes or mutates. This is the part that is used as a check to make sure the copy process worked. It does have a function. Most people test the parts are called the Hyper Variable Region 1 and 2 (HVR1 and HVR2). Testing the full sequence includes HVR1, HVR2, and the coding region. This is the only definitive mtDNA test. It is scary though because it may reveal medical information. One medical problem that comes from a bad mtDNA mutation is LHON. You can read about LHON here:

Both males and females have mitochondria. Only the females can pass it to the next generation, however. That is to say, a mother gives all her children her mitochondrial DNA, but only the daughters can pass it to the next generation. For this reason we can test the mtDNA of a living person and determine the DNA signature of his or her all female line (bottom line on a pedigree chart) back to the beginning. Tests for the mitochondrial are often called mtDNA tests and can either involve the HVR1 or both the HVR1 and HVR2 and are numbered as follows:

Region: Positions
Hyper Variable Region 2: 00001-00574
Coding Region: 00575-16000
Hyper Variable Region 1: 16001-16569
mtDNA forms a circle so 00001 comes after 16569.
(This chart courtesy of Rebekah C.)

3. Autosomal DNA (atDNA) – The 44 non-sex chromosomes. These chromosomes recombine or mix together differently (re-code) with every conception. This is why you look like a sibling or other relative, but not exactly, unless you are identical twins. This part of the DNA is not useful for genealogy, but very useful in determining paternity or sibling relationships. The atDNA also contains your health issues…at least those known currently by scientists.

4. Allele – The term used for the result of a tested marker. In Ydna, the number for the specific marker is the allele (Ex: DYS 393 has a 13). In mtDNA the marker results is the chemical bases. (Ex: 156G)

5. Haplotype – a set of allele values (i.e., the result of a DNA test) for a group of markers. This is your DNA signature. If the test was a Ydna test, then the set of values are a series of numbers, one each for each marker tested. If the test was an mtDNA test, then the results is show with a letter of one of the chemical bases. Only the mutations that occur when the mtDNA is compared to the Cambridge Reference System are designated.

6. Haplogroup – a group of similarly patterned Haplotypes which share a common ancestor as defined by a unique event polymorphism (one type mutation) at a specific locus (location). It is a tester’s twig on the World Family Tree (Phylogenetic Tree). Haplogroup names are a series of letters and numbers, starting with a letter. For example: R1b1b2. This is a Y-dna haplogroup and each letter and number indicates a smaller branch. That is, R is the branch of the World Family Tree and the one following the R is the subset under that R branch. This means there is an R2 as well. Then the next letter, b, is a subset of R1. This means there is an R1a, also.

There are haplogroups for mtDNA which are designed the same way. For example: U5a1a. This means the U branch on the World Family Tree and the twig from it is 5. Therefore, there is a U1 twig, a U2 twig, etc.

NOTE: Do not compare the haplogroups for Ydna with mtDNA…they were developed separately. They are apples and oranges.

7. Phylogenetic Tree – The pedigree chart for every man or every woman in the world…The World Family Tree. Just like genealogists have a pedigree chart, all of mankind and womankind each has a pedigree chart. The chart cannot use surnames as surnames were created after DNA groups were determined; therefore, a series of letters and numbers are used. Geneticists have been able to determine the order of development of these branches and twigs on this tree. Groups on the Phylogentic Tree have "names" such as: R1b2, I2b, K2.

8. DNA Chemical Bases – DNA is made up of four chemical bases: Adenine, Cystosine, Guanine, and Thymine. These are abbreviated A, C, G, and T. They are always in pairs, and they always pair the same way. A pairs with T and C pairs with G.

9. Mutation – a change in any marker. Mutations in the autosomal markers could result in situations damaging to the species, but mutations in the non-coding region do no harm. The markers tested for genealogy are in the non-coding region and include the HVR1 and HVR2 for the mtDNA and specific markers of the Ydna.

10. STR – Short Tandem Repeat. A short pattern of the four chemical bases repeated in tandem (next to each other). The number of times this sequence is repeated determines the allele (result) of the marker. For example: GATAGATAGATA is a pattern repeated three times. Thus the marker result (allele) would be 3. Markers are known to repeat their patterns more times than three, however. Each marker has a range in which it repeats. That is, DYS 393 is known to repeat its pattern from 9-17 times, so the result of that marker in a tested person could be any number from 9-17.

11. SNP (pronounced “snip”) – Single Nucleotide Polymorphism. This is a mutation (change) in the marker of a nucleotide. Nucleotides are unique markers in the genome. For example the chemical basis G (Guanine) may change to a T (Thymine). This is done only once in this nucleotide, and these changes determine what haplogroup a person is. There is no harm to the species with this change. SNPs have unique names, such as M207 or P224. The test is either positive or negative for the particular SNP, and this helps determine where a tester is on the Phylogenetic Tree. A person can have a SNP test to determine the detailed twig on their haplogroup branch. That is, testing various SNPs helps determine if you are a U5 or a U5a1a. The more SNPs tested, the more detailed the haplogroup will be.

12. DYS (DNA Y-chromosome Segment) – a locus (location) on the Y-chromosome. Examples of the names for the markers for the Ydna, include DYS 393; DYS CDYa; and DYS 464c.

13. Cambridge Reference System (CRS) – The first sequence completed for the human mtDNA and is now been corrected or revised and is called the Revised Cambridge Reference System. Everyone uses the acronym CRS, however. The sequence contains 16,568 base pairs and was recorded at Cambridge, England, hence the name. All mtDNA results are compared to the CRS, and only the differences from that comparison are recorded as the test result. You can see the entire sequence by using the link listed below. Marker result for mtDNA gives the number of the marker (from 1 to 16,568) and then the letter of the chemical bases that mutated). For example: 15326G

14. DNA Project – An established group of tested people. DNA Projects include those with a specific surname and its variant spellings for males. For both male and females there are haplogroup projects, geographical projects, and ethnic projects. Not every testing company offers this variety of projects, so investigate the various companies and what they offer before testing.

The benefits from these projects do vary. For a surname project a male can determine if they do descend along their all male line with this surname. Sometimes one finds there was a Non-Parental Event (adoption, illegitimate birth, name change, etc.) For the geographical projects, you may find close relationships to a geographic location which could help direct you in your genealogy research. For haplogroup projects your haplotype (DNA signature) can help those interested in the migration patterns of our most ancient ancestors understand more.
With ethnic groups, a collection of haplotypes also provides more data to further the understanding of various cultural groups. Often project managers analyze the data and develop hypotheses which helps further the study of DNA and how it can help genealogy.

Besides reading the above definitions, Google the terms on the Internet to find variations which will help you better understand as you can view different ways the term is explained.

Once you learn some vocabulary of a foreign language you are ready to form phrases and sentences. The same is true of Genetic Genealogy. Using the above terms, the following sentences are true, and you only need to complete the statement with the above word that fits correctly. Can you answer them without looking at the above list or the answers below?

1. What are the three types of DNA which can be tested?

2. What are the four types of DNA Projects?

3. What is the collective result of a DNA test called besides a DNA signature?

4. What is your twig on the Phylogenetic tree is called?

5. Males can test their all male lines (the top line of their pedigree charts) with which test?

6. Females and males can test their all female line (bottom line bottom line of their pedigree chart) with which test?

7. Which test is least useful test for genealogy, but the best test for paternity?

8. What is the result of testing a specific DNA marker is called?

9. What determines the number (ex: the 25 for DYS 447) in the result of a marker tested for Ydna?

10. What is CRS?

11. What is DYS mean and which test has them?

12. What is a mutation?

13. What is the Phylogenetic Tree?

14. What is the difference between coding (recombining) and non-coding markers? Which are used for genealogy?

Lastly, you are ready to begin reading more about Genetic Genealogy. You can refer to the articles on this blog; however, there are many online tutorials and books which can help you. Remember to treat them like a reference book and not the “Great American Novel.” Mark in the books if you own them. Print out what you want from the online tutorials. Review the information from time to time to keep your new foreign language readily available.

A list of recommended books and online tutorials can be found in the archives of this blog for February 2007, but they are repeated here for your convenience.

Charles Kerchner's Webpage
This is a wonderful tutorial and array of information on Genetic Genealogy, including book recommendation.

Family Tree DNA Tutorial
This contains a large variety of information on testing. Click on SITE MAP at the bottom of the page to better locate desired information.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's website with many resources. It also lists surname projects from several testing companies.

Dave Dorsey's Website
This site shows how DNA you take your DNA sample for testing

Revised Cambridge Reference Sequence
This is the 16,568 markers for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Family of Women
The site has many mtDNAHaplogroup projects and information on them.

Cyndi’s List for DNA
Various links to a wide range of DNA sources

World Families Network
Many wonderful resources

International Society of Genetic Genealogist (ISOGG)
Email list of Newbies -- anyone interested in Genetic Genealogy can join and ask any question on the email list.
Email list for Administrators with many links and files to help them.
(Join ISOGG today. There is no cost. Tell them you learned of it from Emily's Blog.)

1. Ydna, mtDNA and atDNA
2. Surname, Geographical, Ethnic, and Haplogroup
3. Haplotype
4. Haplogroup
5. Ydna
6. mtDNA
7. atDNA
8. allele
9. STRs…the number of times a short pattern of checmical basis repeats itself
10. Cambridge Reference System – the first testing of the entire mitochondria.
11. DNA Y-chromosome Segment. Ydna
12. any change in a marker
13. The World Family Tree
14. Coding markers recombine with every conception while non-coding markers remain virtually the same over time. Non-coding is best for genealogy as you want consistency over time.

©Aulicino, Nov 2008

01 November 2008

Why Test 67 Markers?

People who wish to test their Ydna often ask which test its best. First you have to determine what your goal is and then find the test that best meets it.

As genealogists, we want our test to further our research; therefore, it is imperative that the test be helpful within a genealogical time frame. The following numbers of markers that are tested give results which are and are not within genealogical time. Although the following are the tests provided by Family Tree DNA, any testing company using about that number of markers will produce a similar result. However, note that at this time, no other company tests 67 markers on the Y chromosome, except Family Tree DNA.

Thus chart indicates the time frame for a match within a set of markers.

DNA TMRCA (Time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor) and Probability to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA)

12 marker Ydna test tells you only about your most ancient ancestry....over 600 yrs ago and before surnames. The Genographic Project uses only the 12 marker for males as they are only interested in tracking the migration pattern of our most ancient ancestors. Their project is an anthropological study; not a genealogical one, but in time their data will help us.

25 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 600 yrs.

37 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 300 yrs.

67 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 150-200 yrs.

This means that the 37 marker and the 67 marker are the genealogists’ best choices as they fall withing a genealogical time frame. Prior to 600 years ago some cultures did not establish surnames. Actually, the Irish were probably the oldest culture and they began around 1000 years ago. However, the Welsh, the Jews and many others hae only had surnames for the last few hundred hears..

Although one can order the lesser number of markers (37) and upgrade at any time to a 67 marker test, the cost is a bit more than the difference between the two. There are also good reasons to update to a 67 marker and, in cases, reasons not to bother, at least until it is necessary.

So why upgrade to a 67 marker?

The following information will help the tester determine if a 67 marker is important to your goals.

It is important to know that a Ydna 67 marker test can:

* further refine the estimate of how closely related two individuals are.

* help groups of related testers find mutations which identify sub-branches in the family.

The following scenarios are good reasons to upgrade to a 67 marker:

If you are a member of a group of closely related testers with a good 37 marker match, but there is no paper trial to connect the croup, it may be wise to upgrade as:

* More mutations can result, giving you the opportunity to further subdivide the large group and look for more recent common ancestors.
(See Talley Project at www.familytreedna.com/puiblic/Talley-Tally)

If you are a member of a group with many mutations (more than the usually number…i.e., more than 3 with a 37 marker) and you think you are closely related with the paper trail.

* The marker increase may not increase the mutations.

* The marker mutations may increase, pushing the common ancestor too far away from the group.

* The marker mutations may help bridge the mutations within the group. Often this happens when you find a family who has many mutations and the paper trail supports a good connection. Some families do mutate more often than others. Finding more testers for the family may bridge the gap between those who have greater genetic differences. A 67 marker may also show the testers re closely related as the markers from 38-67 have few to no mutations. The more markers tested the greater number of genetic differences can be accepted for still being a close relationship.


Probability for Most Recent Common Ancestor

The following times back to the MRCA when ALL the markers match are based in the latest results of the mutation rate study conducted by the University of Arizona.

For example, with 37/37 match there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was no longer than 2 generations, and a 90% probability that the MRCA was within the last 5 generations.

Compare these with 25 and 12 -- with 25 markers, there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was within the last 3 generations, while with 12 markers, there is a 50% probability that the MRCA was within the last 7 generations.

For a chart showing the Probability for Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA), see: http://www.familytreedna.com/faq2.html

SO, in conclusion, if your test results fits within one of the above scenarios, it may be advantageous to upgrade to a 67 marker.

In time, there may be an increase in available markers to test so upgrading to a 67 marker may be only a step to the future and not the end.

©aulcino@hevanet.com, 1 Nov 2008

23 October 2008

Autosomal DNA (atDNA)

Many people are seeking to determine their ancestor whom they have been told descended from a Native American or an African American. There are family stories that a great-great grandmother or grandfather was a slave or perhaps a member of the Cherokee nation. Often these connections are difficult to prove with genealogical research.

Some companies provide information on your ethnic background by testing your autosomal markers and giving you a percentage of what culture those markers contain. To understand the usefulness and accuracy of this, one needs to understand autosomal markers.

Autosomal markers are distributed throughout all your chromosomes, and they represent your accumulated inheritance from your ancestors. That is, you inherent approximately fifty percent of your genes from your mother and the remainder from your father. In turn, each of them inherited about fifty percent from their parents. Those genes contain markers which are autosomal and which recombine or restructure themselves differently for every person at conception. In other words, these are the markers which make you look like your family, but not exactly…unless you have an identical twin. These markers make you a unique individual. They give you your mother’s high cheek bones, your father’s nose, etc.

Also, autosomal markers contain all your health issues. Science knows the markers for a few inherited diseases and progress toward knowing more is continuing. Health issues are believed to be a combination of marker mutations, making their jobs a bit more difficult. Scientists know that environment is the biggest factor for health issues, however. Granted, there are inherited diseases which raise the likelihood of someone’s health being hampered, but there is no guarantee it will in most cases. What we eat, what we breathe, and what we do after we eat (i.e., no exercise) are major factors contributing to our health, as well.

Autosomal markers are best used to help determine paternity and for use in forensics (See my blog on CODIS).

atDNA and Genealogy

Some testing companies give a percentage for various ethnic groups and claim to assign a tribe to African or Native American Heritage. The test result from these companies is displayed as percentages for various ethnic groups. Not every ethnic group can be determined. Basically, a tester would get a percentage for Western European, Native American, African, and Asian. For example, a person’s test could result in 36% Western European, 24% African, etc.

A genealogist would have to ask how helpful a percentage of a cultural group is to the search for ancestors. Some genealogists suspect that a particular ethnic group is part of their heritage, and they are comfortable knowing their DNA confirms this. Others find that just knowing that fact does not really advance their search for their family. Depending upon the researcher’s goals, this type of test may be very useful or not. A researcher needs to determine his or her reason for testing the autosomal markers and whether that result will fit his or her genealogical needs.

As each person inherits a unique combination from the parents, your test could you 15% Native American where your sibling might test and show 21%, or none at all. Remember, autosomal markers recombine differently with every conception.

Another issue is that those percentages will change as the company’s particular database becomes larger. That is, if you test today and again in five years, your percentages may change. For some, as I previously stated, it may be important for them to know what ethnic groups are in their background, although not all ethnic groups can be determined even by companies who test autosomal markers.

DNA does not recognize nationalities and tribes, per se. These are man-made terms. Scientists declare autosomal testing an “an infant science.” They feel the database which determines to what “tribe” someone belongs is too small. Tens of thousands of testers are needed to make genetic determinations. As the work on this continues, someday we may be able to correctly categorize with more accuracy, but given the lack of stable reliability of autosomal markers over time, there is concern that may not happen.

Accurate Testing for Native American or African DNA

The ONLY testing that can positively identify Native American or African ancestry is the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA testing. This is due to the stability of the markers used for these tests to determine the haplogroup (your twig on the World Family Tree) for the basic ethnic groups. Testing particular parts of the Y-chromosome and the mitochondrial markers are reliable as they are consistent over time. That is to say, they rarely mutate, and those minor mutations help geneticists and genetic genealogists group testers into families. Geneticists have determined which twigs on the World Family Tree (Phylogenetic Tree) do tend to have Western European, Asian, Native American and African DNA; therefore, by testing either the all male line (Ydna test) or the all female line (mtDNA test) an accurate determination of these cultural groups can be made.

Unfortunately, these two tests only test the upper line of a pedigree chart (all male) and the bottom line of a pedigree chart (all female). This leaves everyone in the middle of that pedigree chart not able to test without a surrogate. Unfortunately, most of those researchers seeking to determine if they have a particular culture in their background would most often need to test those lines in the middle. So often the ancestor would be the great-great grandmother of the father’s father, etc. When the line is not all male or not all female, one must find another person to test for the targeted ancestor. To do so, follow these steps:

1. Put the ancestor you suspect to be Native American, African, etc. as number one on a pedigree chart.

2. If this ancestor is male, you can test either the top line of the chart (all male) or the bottom line of the chart (all female). If the ancestor who is now number one is a female, you can only test the bottom line of the chart. Remember: Females do not have a Y-chromosome and mother gives all her children the mitochondrial she has. However, only females can pass it to the next generation.

3. Bring the lineage forward to the present on either an all male or all female line for the male who is now number one on your chart or the all female line for the female who is now number one. This is called “Reverse Genealogy,” as normally a genealogist starts with his or herself and works backwards. You must now work forward to the present until you find a living person on that all male or all female line. Granted, this is a person you may not know. In that case, read my blog on convincing strangers to test.

..........If you find you cannot bring the line you need to the present, then you step back one more generation, if possible, and bring those needed lines to the present.

..........This may not be an easy task, but it has been done many times with great success.

In summary

As scientist, Roberta E. stated: “Clearly understand that the tribes information (as well as any other autosomal analysis information of this type) should be chocked up to the ‘interesting’ category, and little more until the underlying data bases and technology becomes significantly more robust.”

©Aulicino, 23 Oct 2008

04 October 2008

Family Tree DNA Reduces Prices

Family Tree DNA recently offered a sale on many of their tests for genealogy, and now that the sale is over, they have reduced their prices in all categories for Ydna (all male line)testing and for mtDNA (all female line) testing. The prices are not quite the sale price, but are still a very nice reduction. The upgrades from one test to another were not reduced, however.

The new prices are as follows. I have also added a chart to show you which set of markers determines what likely time frame for a common ancestor with any match you find:

DNA TMRCA (Time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor) and Costs:
The following gives a mathematical probability to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA)

12 marker Ydna test tells you only about your most ancient ancestry....over 600 yrs ago and before surnames. The Genographic Project uses only the 12 marker for males as they are only interested in tracking the migration pattern of our most ancient ancestors. Their project is an anthropological study; not a genealogical one, but in time their data will help us.

25 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 600 yrs.

37 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 300 yrs.

67 marker match gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 150-200 yrs.

Prices: (Group rates only listed here. Add $4 for shipping in US; $6 in rest of the world)
12 marker: $99
25 marker: $124
37 marker: $149
67 marker: $248

If you are interested in mtDNA
mtDNA (includes only HVR1) (lowest test) $99
mtDNA Plus (includes HVR1 and HVR2) $149
Full Sequence: $449 (entire mitochondrial DNA)

Combination Ydna and mtDNA (for men only)12 marker Ydna + mtDNA $179
25 marker Ydna + mtDNA Plus $253
37 marker Ydna + mtDNA Plus $278
67 marker Ydna + mtDNA Plus $377

UPGRADES (No cost for shipping and handling)
12 to 25 marker: $59
12 to 37 marker: $109
12 to 67 marker: $199

25 to 37 marker: $59
25 to 67 marker: $159

37 to 67 marker: $99

To order a DNA test and receive the reduced price through this blog...

1. Go to: http://genealem-geneticgenealogy.blogspot.com/
2. Go to the bottom right and click on the FTDNA icon.
3. Where it says SEARCH on the right side, type in GFO (or your surname for male testers, if there is an established project at FTDNA for that surname.)
4. On the next page, click on GFO (or the appropriate surname, if there is a current project.)
5. Complete the form. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on JOIN.

Email me if you have questions before you order your test.

IF you do not see the FTDNA icon on the right of this blog, email me directly at: aulicino@hevanet.com

©aulicino, 4 Oct 2008

01 October 2008

Contacting/Approaching Potential DNA Testers

Ideally, it would be best if a person who has previously tested called a potential tester or someone who has contacted testers in the past. These groups of people can often answer their questions and concerns. Remember that the following is only a guide, and that each person needs to make the approach their own style.

Before You Call

1. Understand the basics of DNA testing for genealogy. There are some wonderful books and online help mentioned in my Blog. Be able to alleviate a tester’s fear of medical or health issues and the criminal justice system’s desire for DNA. See my articles on those topics.

2. Know a few previous generations of their line. I would suggest, at least three generations and preferably you can go back to where your line could meet theirs.

3. Expect to spend a lot of time on the phone so call at a time when you do not have to be in a hurry. Have plenty of telephone minutes at your disposal. Some of the people called want to talk a long time--particularly if they are doing some genealogy themselves. Or expect a big phone bill at the end of the month.

4. Keep good records of the phone calls as if you were running a business and reporting calls to your boss. That includes a file on each prospect with his lineage in front of you when you make the call. Leave nothing to chance.

5. Be enthusiastic! Be yourself. Do NOT be pushy.

6. Above all, be interested in what they are saying as some may want to tell you all about their lives. Some may want to tell you all about themselves or their family. If this happens, regardless of what the person you are calling says you should be very interested and encourage them to keep talking.

In other words make friends with them. Ask questions about what they are saying and be interested. Ask them questions about what they are telling you.

7. Sometimes the wife answers the phone and will screen your call. Some genealogists have commented to me that they suspect at times that the women who answered did not let their husbands know that they had called--not out of jealousy, but out of interest in the family budget. Many older people are on fixed incomes, and this is the reason that one may need to mention up front that a free test is available.

Calling Etiquette

1. Speak clearly. You may be talking to someone who is hard of hearing. You may have to repeat some explanations. Do not speak quickly.

2. Be interested in the person's career, occupation, or avocation.

3. Be aware that the person you call may be another ethnic group, but could still be related. Some might want to be tested and may connect to your line.

4. If the person called is watching a ballgame, ask for a good time to call later--likely another day. Do not keep a prospective tester from a good football game, or whatever his favorite spectator sport. The same goes for keeping parents and grandparents from a child's game.

5. Be courteous. Show some empathy for a person who is ill, in the middle of a project, a meal a favorite TV program, etc.

Basic Issues to Cover

1. Introduce yourself as a genealogist and mention the surname relevant to your call.

2. Ask if they are related to the nearest ancestors on the chart you have so you can establish you have the correct person.

3. Tell them that you think you could be related, but you have not found a paper trail to prove that yet. Ask them if they know how the lines connect. Show a desire to determine a specific relationship or crumble a brick wall.

4. Ask if there is a genealogist in the family or someone who is interested in the ancestors (get their name, email, address, and phone number or as much as you can I order to contact them).

5. Offer to send them a copy of the chart below if they are interested and do not have this info. Then snail it to them.

6. Get some leads on their family and on contacting people in their family who may know more.
.....Find out if there are other living males (in the case this person will not test, but do not mention that.)
.....IF you get any leads for other people, contact them, repeat the process, and do not mention DNA yet. We want interested people, and DNA can scare them away at first.

7. LAST and maybe not even in this first contact, mention that if they do not know how your two lines connect and IF they do not have a person working on the genealogy in the family, mention that the only way to find out is by DNA testing.

8. Thank them for their time and help. You want to be able to call them again, if needed, so ask if that is ok.

Mentioning DNA

1. Refrain from mentioning DNA initially. Show a sincere regard for gathering information that will help you tie to the family via a paper trail. Paper resources are needed along with DNA testing, anyway.

2. If there is a family genealogist, speak with them first about DNA testing and see if that person can suggest someone who might be interested in testing. Have the genealogist help you convince the potential tester to contribute their DNA. You may have to educate the genealogist before you proceed, however.

3. Be prepared to have several conversations prior to mentioning DNA. The general public is not as comfortable about DNA testing as we are. You must alleviate their fears. Explain GINA (Genetic Information and Non-discrimination Act and CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System).

4. One good way to approach the topic of DNA is to let the potential tester (or the genealogist) know that since you and the potential tester or genealogist cannot find the paper trail, there is one way you know will work to determine if your lines are related or not and that is DNA testing.

5. Once you mention DNA testing, be prepared to explain how it is not used for health issues and the insurance companies cannot access it. With the GINA Law it would not matter if they could as they cannot discriminate for health care or jobs. Also be prepared to explain how the test will not get you on or of the FBI’s Most Wanted List as CODIS uses different markers. (See the other articles in my Blog on these topics.)

6. Be prepared to pay for the test. Especially if you have a person who does not do genealogy, who is retired, or who is just not interested enough to give you his DNA and money. Either you pay for the test, gather people in your family to help contribute, or see if your DNA project has a scholarship fund system.

If this person will not test, see if there are other family members who may.

Before You Go

1. Offer to check your database for their family. Send them a print out on their family.

2. Thank the person for their time and interest in helping you solve your problem, even if the help was minimal.

E. Aulicino

25 September 2008

NEW DNA Company on Facebook

The following information is being sent to you was written by a well respected Genetic Genealogist. This article is a result of other genealogists raising concerns about the new DNA testing being offered by an application on Facebook.

Most of you may not deal with Facebook nor MySpace, but many, many genealogists are beginning to network using these. I am on Facebook, and there are hundreds of genealogists and many, many Genetic Genealogists there.

As DNA is becoming a huge household word, many people are trying to cash in on selling DNA testing to the public. This, in most cases, is quite harmful to the companies which are reputable since these upstart companies are often not organized, do not understand both genealogy and DNA, and do not offer any quailty service. Some even charge for you to see their databases, and this when you are paying them to test!

This low level of quality in service will make finding new testers a problem as over time people will become disgruntled if they buy from such places only to learn later they were fooled in some way. These types of companies are taking advantage of people, and I urge all of you to caution others to do their homework and go with only reliable, long-standing companies.

Although the info below pertains to just one company, there are several others which do not have good organization or good service. We are now receiving complaints on these companies. One main one is Ancestry.com. Complaints are from Administrators of various surname projects as well as from testers. Please educate people you know not to use companies who do not have their websites well organized for the conusmer, who do not provide good service or who are not in the DNA business with a real focus on genealogy. You want a company with a long-standing POSITIVE reputation. One that provides enough services that you can further your genealogy without paying more. One that will answer your questions. One that will be here in the future. Free and cheap are not always best. Remember: "You get what you pay for."

My friend Rebekah wrote the following and gave permission for it to be used here and anywhere else it is needed to help. If you are an Administrator of any project, please forward it to your members. The following includes quotes directly from the company's email to her in response to her inquiry.

Rebekah wrote:


A fellow DNA Project Administrator has pointed out that there is another company entering the Genetic Genealogy business. This is Familybuilder. (Please note that this is NOT to be confused with "Family Tree Builder".)

In the past Familybulider has been the provider of family tree software for networking websites such as Facebook. Ordinarily, I would say that competition is healthy for any industry. This company plans to operate though at a standard below that of any of the companies already out there. They do not plan to make money only by selling you a test and service but by selling their database built with users' DNA. "We may also sell, rent or otherwise disclose the anonymized DNA analyses of our customers and any related anonymized studies to third parties."


Their privacy policy absolves them of all responsibility for the maintenance of your privacy once they pass information on to their unnamed testing lab. "We are not responsible, and you agree that you will nothold us liable, for any actions of such third party, including disclosure by the third party of your confidential information, the content of the analysis provided by the third party, or for any other actions taken or omitted by the third party, or for any consequences, direct or indirect resulting from actions taken by the third party."


We work in an environment where we are already have to gain the confidence of leery relatives. I think that this blatant abuse of trust is the last thing that we need. Please read the privacy policies of any company carefully. Let your friends and relatives know that they should test at a company that is responsible and sells DNA services and not their users.

Rebekah C.

©aulicino, 25 Sept 2008

20 September 2008

DNA Testing vs. CODIS, the Criminal Database

CODIS vs. Genealogy

As I have previously stated, DNA testing for genealogy is NOT useful to insurance companies or government agencies. The portions of the genome used for genealogy cannot pin-point a certain person, and they do NOT contain your health issues.

Law enforcement agencies obtain DNA at a crime scene and test only a specific set of markers to compare against their database.


Both SMG And CODIS are databases for the criminal justice system. SGM is an acronym for Second Generation Multiplex for a commercial multiplex kit (multiple markers can be tested in the same reaction) and is widely used in European countries. CODIS is an acronym for Combined DNA Index System and is used in the U.S. It combines several databases, with DNA profiles for convicted criminals, biological evidence in unsolved cases, and missing persons.

The SGM Plus test uses 10 autosomal Short Tandem Repeat (STR) markers where as CODIS uses 13 markers. Eight markers overlap.

NOTE: Short Tandem Repeat (STR) is a short pattern of the four chemical bases (Adenine, Cytosine, Thymine and Guanine) in the DNA that repeats itself, side by side for each marker. The number of times they repeat is the test results (called the allele) for that particular marker. That is, if you test your Ydna and on marker DYS 393 and you have the result of 13, then a particular pattern of the four basic chemicals in your DNA has repeated this pattern 13 times. This type of results helps to compare different testers.

Profiling with SMG and CODIS:

The purpose of both SMG and CODIS is to identify an individual unambiguously based on probabilities. The odds are billions against finding that any two individuals would have exactly the same DNA. The odds are exactly the same CODIS or SGM profile.

A single mismatch on any of the compared markers means you do not have the same person represented in your reference sample.

Mixed DNA Crimes:

In some cases, it is impossible to do conventional PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction, a process to amplify the DNA in order to obtain results.) analysis where there is a mixture of male and female DNA in sexual assault crimes. The only DNA that can be uniquely identified and separated is the Y-chromosome. In such cases, STR markers are used, and it is not possible to uniquely identify a person, but it is possible to narrow down the population of potential suspects.


General Background:

Interactive Map on Profiles

List of CODIS markers:

CODIS Testing vs. Genealogical Testing:

The DNA is chemically chopped up into chemically-defined fragments using the PCR techniques. In analogy, suppose you had a long piece of tickertape with random numbers on it and you cut the tape every time you saw the number 43. In the end you'd wind up with a pile of scraps of tickertape of different lengths.

Each DNA fragment length you obtain from chopping up the DNA upon analysis appears as a dark line in the long sheet of X-ray film (autorad) you see in detective stories on TV.

The position and intensity of the lines created by your unknown DNA are compared to the position and intensity of lines created by the DNA in the known sample. If the two sets of lines match, the two sets of fragments match, the two kinds of DNA match, and you have your criminal.

In Genetic Genealogy Testing…

The DNA analysis used for genetic genealogy uses only very small segments (short tandem repeat or STR markers) occurring on the Y-chromosome only. They are the same type but not necessarily the same markers as those used by CODIS. In either case you wind up analyzing only a few hundred or, at the most, a couple of thousand bits in the genome.

The analysis is based on the lengths of those markers again, but defined differently. They are defined not according to where "43" might appear on the tickertape. They are defined according to where certain chemical motifs are repeated X number of times.

In analogy, these markers would be defined by the tickertape again, but you would only be interested in how many times 43 is repeated at a certain position on the tape.

Government Fingerprinting Databases:

Ysearch is only one of the public DNA databases for genetic genealogy. Although the criminal justice system can access it or any of the others, doing surveillance on a surname group to see which one of the Smiths or Joneses committed the crime would be so time consuming and expensive that it would not be worth it.

By the time law enforcement gets this far in an investigation, they probably have a list of suspects. If one of them is named Smith or Jones, they will be under surveillance and they might be arrested…but not the whole group.

If you are planning to rob a bank or commit some other crime, DNA is only one way you can get caught. More likely you will be caught because your fingerprints match those in the FBI database. But no one worries about that.

Colleen Fitzpatrick was instrumental in providing the above analogies.

E. Aulicino
© 2007

DNA Privacy Issues

Much of the general public may tend to be fearful of new advances in technology when it comes to something as personal as our own DNA. With the advent of George Orwell’s book 1984, many people may not trust the government or some of their agencies with such intimate information. It is the duty of the Genetic Genealogist to understand DNA testing and to help alleviate those fears.

Alleviating Fears

Often you may find people who have concerns about DNA Testing. They feel that the world will know more about them than they do about themselves. They are concerned that doctors and insurance companies and possibly employers will use the result of the test against them, perhaps forbidden coverage or restricting them from being hired. Others may be concerned that our government may use the results against them, especially in the criminal justice system.

In order to get a relative to test, you must alleviate their fears. With knowledge and understanding, you can at least mitigate their reservations and explain how testing for genealogy is not harmful.

Sharing Haplotypes:

The most important piece of information is to know and understand that your DNA signature (haplotype) which is used for genealogical purposes is not just yours. If you are a male, the test results is either an exact match or it is extremely similar to all the males in your all male line (top line of a pedigree chart). For the case of your mitochondrial DNA (female DNA), an exact match would be for all the females in your all female line (bottom line of the pedigree chart) for thousands or tens of thousands of years.

For example: You and your full-blooded brothers would have the same results on the tests used for genealogical purposes in both the Ydna and the mtDNA. You, your brothers, your father, paternal grandfathers, paternal uncles and cousins on your all male line would have the same DNA signature (haplogroup). There could be minor mutations with some of these relatives, but not all. Therefore, it is impossible for anyone to determine that a specific haplotype is really yours…you share it with others. Women are the same as they share their haplotype with their sisters, brothers (mtDNA only), mothers, grandmothers…all the women in their all female line.

Someone approached me wanting to know if they could test Ydna to determine if two men were the father of a child. This can be done easily unless, those fathers are related on an all male line. In this case, they were; they were a father and son, each impregnating the same woman and each producing a child. Those children would have the same Ydna and mtDNA results. ONLY in the rare case that the son had a mutation that the father did not have could anyone determine whose son was whose.

So each person does not have their own particular DNA signature when it comes to testing for genealogy.

Testing Company Privacy:

Some testing companies keep your DNA sample for a certain number of years while others destroy it after they determine the results. The reason for maintaining the sample is so the owner of the DNA can request other testing. However, anyone can ask that the company destroy their sample at any time.

Testing companies take your name, but when they send the sample to the lab for testing, you are only a number.

Testing companies uphold your privacy as any leaks of data would put those companies out of business rapidly. There are networks of Genetic Genealogists who would see to this.

Insurance Companies:

The type of DNA data an insurance company needs is not available from the markers used for testing in the field of genealogy. Insurance companies need the autosomal DNA (atDNA) as it contains your health issues. Genealogy research does not want the atDNA as it is too inconsistent to help with research. Autosomal DNA re-combines with every conception so you and your sibling would have different atDNA unless you were identical twins. An insurance company’s source would be through a doctor, and the tests would need to be conducted by the medical industry. For these reasons, an insurance company would not access Genetic Genealogy company’s databases, even if they could.

In 2008 Congress, passed GINA (Genetic Information and Non-Discrimination Act) which is now a law protecting the public from discrimination by insurance companies and employers. (For more information on this bill becoming a law see the GINA post on this blog.) The law states that as a result of a DNA test an insurance company or an employer cannot take action against a person. Again, this DNA testing would be through the medical services. However, it is nice to know that if you have a health issue that arises later, you are protected.

Criminal Justice System:

Some people fear that the justice system will obtain their DNA and use it against them. The system the justice department uses is CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System) and is a system of genetic profiling. The markers used for genealogy are not the same ones used for CODIS, although a few may overlap. However, the way the government tests the marker is completely different than how labs doing genealogical work test them. Therefore, the result would never turn out the same.

For a more detailed explaination see the future post entitled: CODIS

In summary:

The first step in testing and in finding potential testers is to educate them and alleviate their concerns. Coming Blogs will give you more information on CODIS and provide some successfully used ideas on how to contact potential testers.

E. Aulicino
© 2007

10 September 2008

Understanding the Benefits of DNA Testing for Genealogy - Part 3: Choosing a DNA Test


There are four types of DNA tests, but only first two listed here really helps with genealogy. The third one helps with one’s more ancient ancestry, if your interest lies there. The last is too unpredictable to be a good indicator of genealogical relationships.

1. Y-chromosome DNA (Ydna). This test can help trace the paternal lines from father to son to grandson. Only males can test as one must have a Y-chromosome. This test can determine or exclude Native American or African ancestry by comparing haplotypes or tester can order a SNP to confirm the haplogroup

2. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). This test can help trace maternal lines – mother to daughter to granddaughter and can be used for genealogical purposes through careful research. It requires good genealogy research and the location of qualified female descendents for success. Mitochondrial DNA can determine or exclude African & Native American ancestry. It is much more useful anthropologically. Successes, when they happen, are huge! This testing can associate men or women to one of the "daughters of Eve"

3. Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP). A Variation that occurs when a single nucleotide (A,T,C,or G) in the genome sequence is altered. It occurs in both Ydna and mtDNA and happens only once for the particular marker. SNPs are used to categorize haplotypes for Phylogenetic Trees.

4. Autosomal DNA (atDNA). This type of markers is in the coding or Re-combining region of the genome. It is the random combination of all genetic information passed down to us from all our blood-line ancestors. At conception we received genetic data from both of our parents and it recombines to be the unique you that you are. This type of DNA determines our unique identity and appearance and makes us similar to our parents and siblings. This type of testing is used for the typical paternity tests and individual identity tests in forensic testing (Combined DNA Index System or CODIS).

........It does not aid genealogy research since there is no continuity over time. Testing results given in percentages for some ethnic groups. Connecting to an African or Native American tribe is based on the size of a company’s database which changes regularly. Databases change over time, thus so does the results based on autosomal testing. That is to say, if you tested your autosomal markers to determine what percentage of what ethnic group you are, because these markers recombine with every conception, your sibling would have different percentages quite often. Because of the sizes of the database, if you tested now and tested again in five or so years, your percentages would be different as might be the particular tribe some companies feel they can attribute to your markers. In time when the databases are much larger and the paper trails are more accurate as to which tribes are connected with specific DNA results, Autosomal testing will be more accurate than it is now, but not as accurate in predicting solid information as either the Ydna, the mtDNA, or the SNP.

Who can test and how?

1. Males can test their Ydna to get their father’s all male line
2. Males can test their mother’s mtDNA to get their mother’s all female line
3. Females can only test their mtDNA to get their mother’s all female line

How can other lines of my lineage be tested?

1. Choose the person for which you wish to obtain DNA
2. Put that person as Number 1 on a Pedigree Chart
3. Find the all male or all female line
4. Do “Reverse Genealogy”

For more information on DNA Testing and explanations of all the terms, consult the following tutorials and books. There many more books and online resources, but these are the most understandable by the novice. The books below can be found for under $10. Some may be in your library. For some other excellent books, please see the list on this Blog.

Click on TUTORIALS on the right

World Families Net - many topics

Genetics & Genealogy - An Introduction
Genetic Genealogy DNA Testing Dictionary
Genetic Genealogy Glossary

The Genetic Genealogist...a blog to follow
Free booklet from Blain T. Bettineger, Ph.D. (Click on icon to the right)

Wonderful beginners book on Genetic Genealogy:

....Family History in the Genes by Chris Pomery

Also see if you can find in your library or used book store:

....Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner

©Aulicino, 31 Aug 2008

04 September 2008

Understanding the Benefits of DNA Testing for Genealogy - Part 2: Setting DNA Testing Goals

Steps to Determining a Goal

Without understanding how DNA helps genealogy well, it may be difficult to pick the goal and proper test to help you solve your genealogy problem, so it is very important to read as much as you can on the subject and consult people who do understand it.

There are many books listed on this site and you also have the option of contacting me.

Although the learning curve is steep in the beginning, you can learn enough about testing to benefit from it. It does get easier over time and with repeated doses.

1. Narrow down a question you are trying to answer.

There is a large variety of problems you might solve with DNA testing. Those listed below are only a few possibilities:
..........Which line do you wish to test?
..........Are you interested in results that tell you about your most ancient ancestry or something within genealogical time?
..........Are you looking for a biological father?
..........Do you wish to know which other persons with your surname are related?
..........Do you wish to find cousins to help research the lineage?
..........Are you trying to prove or disprove a connection to a famous or infamous person?
..........What is my ethnic heritage?

Just having a question does not help you choose a test unless you understand what DNA testing can tell you specifically for your question. The above questions can be answered with DNA testing, but perhaps not in the way you might assume. For this reason, if you are anxious to test before you clearly understand and before you finish reading all the messages I will be posting on the subject, do write me directly before you order any test. My email: Aulicino@hevanet.com

2. Finding the person you need for the test.

In genealogy we always start with ourselves and work methodically backwards for each generation, gleaning all we can before proceeding backward to the next set of grandparents.

In Genetic Genealogy we do the opposite. The term is “reverse genealogy.” We start with the person whose DNA we wish to target. For example, your great, great, grandfather. In this case we can only test his all male line so we locate the records we need to bring each male line to the present. Work on all the males at the same time as some may “daughter out.” That is, there are only daughters born in one generation so the surname doesn’t continue with that branch of the family.

Bring as many males to the present on an all male line from the targeted great, great, grandfather. To check this work, put the living male as number one on a pedigree chart and see if the top line of the chart goes back to the targeted person…that great, great, grandfather.

Once you have found a living male on the line you need, then check the online phone books or other resources to find a phone number or address and contact that person.

Of course, if that person will not test or is no longer living you then have the other males you researched. Also, you can ask about sons of your possible tester or nephews or cousins on the all male line.

The same strategy is used for the all female line, the bottom line of a pedigree chart.

3. Select the people to test based on the question.

For example, you may wish to know if the Tennessee Talley families are related to the North Carolina Talley families. To answer this question with DNA testing, you would then need to select several male Talley descendants from each of the lines and compare the results of their DNA tests.

A match would prove that the two lines descend from a common ancestor, though would not be able to determine which ancestor. The common ancestor could be their father, or it could be a male from over a thousand years ago. This common ancestor can be further narrowed down by testing additional people and/or additional markers.

4. Convince the person you need to take a DNA test.

This can some times be very easy to do, but not always. The rule to follow comes from a comment made by a good ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) friend, Georgia Kenney Bopp when she said: “Never ask for DNA on the first date.”

This is a good mantra. Much of the public is still very skeptical about their DNA being in the public eye….some times, they seem more concerned about that than their credit card information! I will speak to this in more depth later, but for now, just get to know the person on a genealogical level. Ask if they know whether or not your lines are related and if there is a family genealogist. Although genealogists have a varying degree of comfort on the idea of DNA testing, they may tend to understand more easily than just a man off the street. Take nothing for granted, however. Anyone who doesn’t really understand the difference between testing for genealogy, testing for your medical doctor or testing for the criminal justice system isn’t a person likely to test. You may have to first educate yourself; then educate your tester.

After you know what questions DNA Testing will answer and what answer you seek, the next step is Part 3: Choosing a DNA Test

©Aulicino, 31 Aug 2008

01 September 2008

Understanding the Benefits of DNA Testing for Genealogy - Part 1: Why Should You Test Your DNA?


Understanding the Benefits of DNA Testing for Genealogy is a series of three articles designed to help the genealogist use DNA testing to their benefit.

The following articles are:
Part 1: Why Should You Test Your DNA?
Part 2: Setting DNA Testing Goals
Part 3: Choosing a DNA Test

Part 1: Why Should You Test Your DNA?

Many genealogists feel that they have excellent documentation for their lineage and no doubt many do and it is possibly very accurate. However, one never knows until you test your lines using DNA. DNA is the most accurate tool a genealogist has and unlike paper sources it does not lead you down the wrong path with inadvertent errors.

I often tell the story of my Ogan line from Frederick County, Virginia in the mid 1700s. My Peter and Euphemia Ogan were the only family by that surname in the county until one day just before moving to Belmont County, Ohio just after the turn of the century there appeared in the tax records a Samuel Ogan. Now, Samuel was Euphemia’s step-father’s name, and it is common knowledge that when a person becomes of age they are listed on the tax rolls…so this was my assumption: Samuel was very possibly a son of Peter and Euphemia. I began tracing his line in Ohio and found that he had grandchildren named Peter and Euphemia, as did my Peter and Euphemia. Descendants of both families landed in Indiana in later years, although not the same county. I hired a good researcher to glean what she could from areas in both Ohio and Indiana. Hundreds of dollars later I had acquired news articles on the family, deeds, and even a digitalized photo album of descendants. I was in the process of writing a book on all my Ogans, bringing their lines down to at least the 1900s. Elizabeth Shown Mill’s book Evidence! assured me that I could be confident in my work, although circumstantial…it was strong circumstantial evidence. BUT, that was before DNA testing.

After DNA testing arrived on the scene a few years later, I found a male candidate for both my line and Samuel’s. The test results were very far from matching. Hundreds of dollars and many, many hours were wasted. Samuel was not related! I have since learned my lesson…DNA test first where possible!

However, I hold out some hope as I am searching for another descendant of Samuel that would be a distant cousin to the first tester. My line has been repeatedly tested so I am confident in the test results for Peter, but it is still possible that the person who tested for Samuel had what is called an NPE (Non-Parental Event) in his line. That is to say, there was a known or unknown adoption or illegitimate son along the line. This would explain the vast difference in the testing result if a new tester matches the results of my Peter. I have several months before my book will be near completion, so there is time to find another tester so I can safely include or exclude this line and distribute my boxes and boxes of data for Samuel to some worthy descendant.

SO, why should every genealogist DNA test their lines? Because…

Paper sources are inaccurate or missing. Living in a census household with the same surname is not proof of a relationship. Letters or deeds calling someone a brother is not proof of a relationship.

Adoptions and illegitimate children are not always recorded in written or oral history and have happened for thousands of years. Since the days of the caveman, families have taken in orphaned children and it is still done in modern times without being recorded.

Name changes are not recorded. Ancestor had to leave the country/state to escape from the law or ancestor wished to distinguish himself and his descendants with a variation of his surname.

Spelling errors become the norm. The following is a list of some of the spellings for my Ogan surname:

Gaelic name: O’h-Ogain.
Wogan, Agen, Agin, Agun, Augan, Ogan, Ogans, Oogan, O’ogan, O’ogain, O’Hogan, Hogan, Ogen, Ogin, Ogun, Ogyn, Ougan, Owgan, Dugan, U’gan (pronounced Oogawn)

I have personal stories and the DNA to back up everyone of these categories.

In summary, DNA tests can be used by genealogists to...

1. Link specific individuals - e.g. test to see whether you and a person you think may be a cousin descend from a common ancestor.

2. Prove or disprove the ancestry of people sharing the same last name - e.g. test to see if males carrying the surname are related to each other.

3. Prove or disprove oral history of descending from a famous or infamous person.

4. Break through genealogical brick walls. (See a previous Blog)

5. Prove or disprove you paper trail.

6. Map the genetic origins of large population groups - e.g. test to see whether you have European or African American ancestry.

Once you understand how genetic testing can help you with your genealogy, you can formulate your goals for testing and determine which test will help you reach that goal. These topics will continue this series with Part 2: Setting DNA Testing Goals.

Questions or Comments? Email: aulicino@hevanet.com

©Aulicino, 31 Aug 2008

29 August 2008

Family Tree DNA - NEW Summer Sale - Jump in the Gene Pool !!!

Folks, this is a whopper of a sale!

Recently FTDNA ran a Sizzling Summer Sale and reduced the prices of some very popular tests, but this sale ends Aug 31. TODAY, however, they extended that sale to September 30th and even threw in some FREE tests! YES! FREE, FREE, FREE!!!

To order a test, click on the FTDNA link at the lower right of this Blog. IF you cannot see the icon, email me at: aulicino@hevanet.com

It's time to jump into the GENE Pool!

The following letter to project administrators arrived just minutes go:

Dear Group Administrator,
Due to popular demand Family Tree DNA is extending its Sizzling Summer Sale until September 30th! This promotion is geared toward bringing new members to your projects by offering the following big incentives:

Y-DNA12............................Free mtDNA.........$189..........$99
Y-DNA25............................Free mtDNA........$238........$148
Y-DNA37............................Reduced................$189 .......$119
Y-DNA67+mtDNAplus....Reduced................$409........$288 mtDNAplus........................Reduced...............$189........$149

The purpose of this sale is to grow our database and at the same time help our Group Administrators encourage those "fence sitters" to climb off the fence and join your project. To date, the reaction has been very strong and we feel the benefit to the database and to your projects justifies the extension of this promotion. We would also like to thank all of our Group Administrators who have sent details of this promotion out by email or by postings to blogs and lists. It is clearly working, and we ask that you continue your efforts to make this promotion a growth vehicle for your projects.

IMPORTANT: This promotion requires that payment is either made by credit card or received by the conclusion of the sale on September 30th, 2008.

As always, thank you for your continued support!
Bennett Greenspan President

06 August 2008

Finding Ancestors through DNA

All genealogists find their lineage stops at some point…the proverbial brick wall. As records have been lost, burned or never existed to help us tunnel through that brick, a new tool in the genealogist’s toolbox, just may be the answer. That new tool is DNA testing.
DNA testing for genealogists began in 2000 and has rapidly grown ever since. That year, Bennett Greenspan, founder of Family Tree DNA, started the first company to sell DNA test kits to and for genealogists. Today his company handles the testing for the National Geographic Genographic Project and has the largest database for genealogists. Bennett is a genealogist. DNA testing continues reaching various milestones and has helped genealogists in many ways.

Through DNA testing, you may find a match between your surname and that of another tester who has a documented family tree that could add to your information. By finding other researchers with whom you have a common ancestor (a DNA match), you could focus on the missing generations between your families. ALSO, DNA testing rules out persons with the same surnames who are not a genetic match, thus allowing you to focus on lines that are definitely related to you.

The DNA results will not tell you the name, place, or time the common ancestor lived, but will tell you there is a common male ancestor between two or more testers. This is called the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) by geneticists.

Depending upon the number of markers tested and the quality of the match, DNA results can provide a time frame in which the common ancestor has a high probability of existing. Basically, the following list indicates the highest probability.

If there is a match for a…
…12 marker test, the MRCA is prior to 600 years ago.
…25 marker test, there is a 95% probability of an MRCA being within the last 600 years.
…37 marker test, there is a 95% probability of an MRCA being within the last 300 years.
…67 maker test, there is a 95% probability of an MRCA being within the last 150-200 years.

NOTE: A match is considered to be an exact numerical copy up to a genetic difference of four.

Genetic Difference is the numerical differences between two person’s markers. This is calculated in two different ways depending upon the particular marker. Most generally you can just subtract the two numbers in each marker (allele) to get the difference. When you have differences in fast mutating markers which have various parts to them (indicated by red on the Family Tree DNA websites (http://www.familytreedna.com/) and having a small alphabetic number after the name of the marker. EX: 464a or CDYb), these are often (not always) considered a difference of one although the various parts of the one marker could have differences in all parts. For example: 464 has several parts….a to g. If someone has the results below, they would still have a genetic difference of one.

Tester 1: .....16..........17........17.........16
Tester 2: .....16..........16........16.........16

After finding a good match, it is very important to check your paper trail and to test a distant cousin of both testers who matched. In this case, go back to the oldest known ancestor and bring an all male line forward to the present on a son different than that of the person who tested. This could be a person you do not know and probably is. However, after contact and after getting to know them you may convince them to test, but you may have to help pay for their test. The idea is to confirm that your DNA is that of your paper trail and your surname. Since time began our ancestors have taken in the orphaned children of the neighborhood. Many adoptions and name changes have existed over these thousands of years without any written record…even into the 20th century. By testing more than one person on a surname, you can determine if any adoptions (formally or informally) have taken place.

After you have tested a distant cousin and proven your DNA matches his, then you are ready to compare your results with other testers to find more cousins. At this point you should be in contact with persons matching your test results and comparing your pedigrees.

If you find that both your lines are in the same general areas, then it’s back to basic genealogy research to find the paper trail which supports the DNA match. If you can’t find that common land area (county, etc), consider the brothers and uncles along the same branch of your pedigree chart. The two testers could be related through an uncle’s family who came to the area. Sometimes it is necessary to test the descendant of other people in the area who bear the same surname.

As more people test…and hundreds are doing so weekly…the number of potential matches will increase. The more matches you find the easier to narrow down your MRCA. DNA testing can be helpful for the present and even more valuable in the future.

These are exciting times and the field of genetics is moving quickly. It has been said that within the next twenty years genealogists will start with their DNA first and then work on the paper trail. At the rate genetics is moving this will happen sooner. More and more people are beginning to understand how genetics can help genealogy. Those who use this new tool no longer consider themselves genealogists, but are proudly called Genetic Genealogists.
If you have questions, please contact Emily Aulicino at Aulicino@hevanet.com

To order a DNA test and receive the reduced price through a Surname Project:

1. Go to the bottom right of this Blog and click on the FTDNA icon.
2. Where it says SEARCH on the right side, type in CAMPANIA
3. On the next page, click on CAMPANIA
4. Complete the form. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on JOIN.

IF you know of a project, put that name where you see CAMPANIA above. If you are a female who wishes to test you cannot join a surname project. In that case type in CAMPANIA.
The CAMPANIA DNA Project is just one of mine and I can help you understand the results, etc. ALSO, you can move to a more relevant project at any time after you receive your test results without cost. You can be a member of more than one project at a time.

Email me if you have questions before you order your test. If you need help, I can call you or email you to walk you through the process.
Copyright Aug 2008