Genetic Genealogy Links
Top Read for January 2017
Roberta Estes' 2016 Retrospective reads like it was custom-written for VCGS DNA SIG members. Please take a few minutes to read the blog post; it is a wonderful and comprehensive description of new developments in genetic genealogy in the past year.
The genetic genealogy field is an emerging technology and a rapidly changing field. The very best way to keep current is through Internet articles and blog posts; traditionally published books simply cannot keep up. Even though this links list is long and daunting, I encourage you to start somewhere – anywhere! – and read as often and as widely as possible. New links are posted often, so please keep coming back. You are welcome here anytime, to select an article and curl up in your favorite armchair or window seat to read and absorb.
Please select from a topic below, or simply scroll down to browse.
Tutorials and Basics
Intermediate and Advanced
Note that the links below are all links to external sites and therefore will open in a new tab or window.
Read This First
Judy Russell's excellent blog post
DNA Resolutions for 2016 does a great job of setting the correct expectations for DNA testing and how it can and cannot help with your genealogy. Please do read this first!
If you are trying to choose a test, or a company, read these articles. Then, take a look at the Tutorials and Basics section, below.
The Unexpected Result
Anyone considering submitting a DNA sample for genealogy purposes should be prepared for the unexpected result. Please read and carefully consider these articles.
The story below is concerned with determining the proper heir to a title. Members of a family participated in a DNA test, but turned up unexpected results.
This news item tells of a very unusual unexpected result. The article describes three different cases of human chimerism - one male, two female.
Legal Issues and Privacy
A range of resources regarding privacy and legal issues. First, some references:
Next, some blog postings on privacy; most, but not all, from The Legal Genealogist:
Finally, a comprehensive and important post from Roberta Estes on Terms and Conditions:
General Basics and Tutorials
Lessons for beginners and refreshers for all.
The Y-DNA test results will reflect the testee's paternal line, from son, to father, to grandfather, etc. Only males can test. The most recent common ancestor of a Y-DNA match may have lived thousands of years ago.
Mitochondrial DNA Basics
The Mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA) test results will reflect the testee's maternal line, from child, to mother, to grandmother, etc. Both males and females can test. The most recent common ancestor of a mt-DNA match may have lived thousands of years ago.
Autosomal DNA Basics
The Autosomal DNA (at-DNA) test results will reflect all the testee's ancestral lines; anyone can test. The most recent common ancestor of an at-DNA match will have lived within the genealogically recent past - a few hundred years ago.
Adoption & DNA
These sites are specifically designed for adoptees seeking their roots. Many of the techniques are adaptable to those who are not adoptees themselves, but have an adoptee or a brick wall in their ancestry. (Who among us doesn't have a brick wall?) Be sure to also see the Success Stories
section below; several of those success stories deal with adoptees and their searches.
- DNAadoption.com – Created by Rob Warthen, DNAadoption.com provides techniques and references for the DNA/Adoption search. Works in conjunction with DNAGedcom.com (listed below under Third-Party Tools) which supplies the tools.
- DNA Adoption, a discussion group – this Yahoo! Group is restricted, which simply means you must request to join with a brief discussion of your reasons for joining.
- Adoption DNA Tools, a discussion group – this Yahoo! Group is also restricted, therefore your membership request must be approved.
- https://www.facebook.com/groups/DNADetectives/ – The DNA Detectives, a Facebook Group for those seeking unknown parents. To participate in this group, you will need to join via your Facebook account.
This section was originally created to support our discussion sessions during April, May, and June 2015, when each month was focused on one vendor, and on autosomal DNA only. However, this section has been updated and kept current since then. Below you will find groups of links detailing how each vendor delivers autosomal DNA test results. Please be sure to also review the links above under "Just Beginning" – several offer reviews of each company. Links which are already included elsewhere on this page may not be repeated here.
Family Tree DNA Family Finder
The Family Tree DNA Family Finder regular price is $99 plus shipping. They sometimes offer sale prices; always check their website for current pricing.
Below are several links detailing how Family Tree DNA delivers autosomal DNA test results (aka Family Finder). These links are listed in chronological order, which is also roughly from basics to more advanced. Be sure to see the recent developments (May 2016) detailed at the end of the list.
In May of 2016, Family Tree DNA announced two "behind the scenes" changes which will be of interest to genetic genealogists. Several bloggers posted about these announcements; only a few will be shown here, but they link to the rest, so you can read all the blog posts on this topic by following the links.
- Family Tree DNA Updates Match Thresholds
- Family Tree DNA Updates mtDNA Algorithm
The AncestryDNA regular price is $99 plus shipping. They often offer sale prices, particularly to new customers; always check their website for current pricing. An Ancestry subscription is required to access many, although not all, of the DNA features. See the link below for Ancestry's description of what is available with and without a subscription.
Below are several links detailing how AncestryDNA delivers DNA test results. AncestryDNA has rolled out several updates and features within the last year. In late 2014, new matching algorithms were deployed behind the scenes; in November 2014, DNA Circles were implemented; in April 2015, New Ancestor Discoveries were introduced; in August 2015, Shared Matches made their appearance; and in November 2015, the Amount of Shared DNA quietly appeared. Most recently, in May 2016, new matching algorithms were again implemented. The links below are listed in rough chronological order, and grouped by topic.
- Getting Started With AncestryDNA
- Getting the Most Out of AncestryDNA
- More About Ancestry's DNA Circles
- Introducing Ancestry's New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs for short!)
- Ancestry: DNA Circles and NADs
- How to Use AncestryDNA and Stay Sane
- Shared Matches at AncestryDNA
- AncestryDNA "Amount of Shared DNA"
- May 2016 – AncestryDNA Matching Algorithm Update
- May & June 2016 – AncestryDNA Modifies Their Autosomal DNA Chip
The 23andMe website has been in a state of transition since November 2015, and is still in transition as of this writing (January 2017). The collected material posted below is in chronological order. Although all the material is applicable, it is not all applicable to everyone. Some customers are on the "old experience," while others are on the "new experience," and the tools are different for each.
May 2015 - Below are several links detailing how 23andMe delivers DNA test results. At this time (May 2015), the 23andMe website has been largely unchanged since about mid-2013, so you won't see a flurry of recent blog postings, but the ones that you do see are still relevant. The most recent change was October 2014, when 23andMe partnered with MyHeritage to host their customers' family trees. These links are listed in chronological order, which is also roughly from basics to more advanced.
November 2015 - Big changes are coming to 23andMe! 23andMe announced in late October that they will be implementing a "new experience." On November 12, they made some changes to the existing "experience" in preparation; however, the majority of the changes are still in the future. Existing users will be transitioned to the "new experience" in phases; precise dates have not been announced. It may be as soon as November and December for some; for others, sometime in 2016 is expected. Below are some blog posts and forum posts with such information as is currently available.
December 2015 - Big changes have arrived at 23andMe! As some users are transitioning to the "new experience," it is becoming clear that the changes so far at 23andMe are drastic. So drastic that some prominent bloggers have decided to temporarily suspend their recommendation of 23andMe; see their posts below. Also, be aware that the price (for new kits) has doubled and is now $199 plus shipping. The $199 is a purchase price and there is no additional subscription price.
June 2016 - The price for a 23andMe DNA kit remains at $199. They have announced that additional users will be transitioning to the "new experience" soon, perhaps as soon as August 2016. (It is unknown how many users have already been transitioned; also unknown is the timeline for transitioning all remaining users.) 23andMe have also announced a new "in common with" feature that is only available to those on the "new experience." Collected here are some blog posts detailing what is known so far, and discussing the updates of June 2016.
August 2016 - It appears that a large number of U.S. customers has been transitioned to the "new experience." International customers remain on the "old experience." (This still appears to be the case in January 2017.)
September 2016 - 23andMe annouces a new pricing structure, with a $99 "Ancestry Service" and a $199 "Health and Ancestry Service." This applies to the U.S.; pricing outside the U.S. varies.
October 2016 - 23andMe announces that their "partnership with MyHeritage has come to an end." Since 23andMe terminated their previous in-house trees in October 2014, when they announced the Partnership with My Heritage, this leaves their customers with no tree functionality at 23andMe.
December 2016 - 23andMe announces Ancestry Composition chromosome segment information.
- Family Tree Update – published 11 Oct 2016 by 23andMe on the Old Experience Forums (users will need to be logged in to read this).
Everyone is interested in their admixture results; how accurate are they? How can a testee put them to work?
You have corresponded with your top matches; now learn to target your Most Recent Common Ancestor.
When you want more analysis than is provided by the consumer websites, take a look at these software tools developed by fellow citizen scientists and genetic genealogists.
- GEDmatch.com – This site has a variety of tools; some are free and some are fee-based. Please see the expanded links section below.
- DNAgedcom.com – This site has a variety of tools; some are free and some are fee-based. Please see the expanded links section below. DNAgedcom.com was created by Rob Warthen.
- Double Match Triangulator – This site offers the Double Match Triangulator software for download and installation. "It combines two or more different people's Chromosome Browser Results (CBR) files from FamilyTreeDNA to provide Double Match and Triangulation data that can be used to help determine genealogical relationships." Developed by Louis Kessler. More about the Double Match Triangulator below:
- DNAgenealogy.tools – Presenting "Next generation tools for DNA genealogy;" this site is currently in closed beta (January 2017). You can sign up to be notified of updates. Developed by Andreas West.
- Utilities by David Pike – This site has a variety of tools, described as: "... utilities for processing unzipped autosomal files from Family Tree DNA and/or 23andMe" – developed by David Pike.
- Genome Mate – This site offers the Genome Mate software for download and installation. "Genome Mate is a desktop tool used to organize in one place the data collected while researching DNA comparisons. Besides data storage it has many features to aid in identifying common ancestors." Developed by Rebecca Walker.
- mtDNA Haplogroup Analysis – a web-based mitochondrial analysis tool developed and maintained by James Lick. Use the tool to further refine your mitochondrial haplogroup assignment from 23andMe.
- AncestryDNA Helper – a Chrome extension by Jeff Snavely, this tool works on AncestryDNA results. It is often referred to as the "Snavely Tool." This extension is a free download from the Chrome Web Store.
- 529andYou – a Chrome extension by neanderling, this tool works on 23andMe and helps to organize match data. According to the description, 529andYou "tracks 23andMe Matches using a local database." This extension is a free download from the Chrome Web Store.
- Using the Chrome Tool: 529andYou – published 16 Mar 2014 by Rebecca Walker, the creator of GenomeMate. Rebecca describes how to use 529andYou to import 23andMe data to GenomeMate.
- DNArboretum – a Chrome extension by neanderling, this tool works on Family Tree DNA trees and 23andMe "old-style" trees. This extension is a free download from the Chrome Web Store.
Chromosome mapping is one more tool in your toolbox. It can assist you to visualize your chromosomes, your matches, and your common ancestors.
- Ancestor Chromosome Mapper – a web-based mapping tool; "This program will make a pretty chromosome map from a CSV file which lists ancestral DNA segments from your known paternal or maternal ancestors." Created by Kitty Cooper. Free although donations are accepted.
- Overlapping Segment Mapper – a web-based mapping tool; "The segment mapper will make a picture of the segment overlaps from up to 40 people in the CSV file you provide which is a list of your DNA match names and their overlapping segment information." Created by Kitty Cooper. Free although donations are accepted.
- Chromosome Maps Showing Centromeres, Excess IBD Regions and HLA Region – provides a CSV download that works in conjunction with the mapping tool, above, to enhance your chromosome map. Published 9 Jun 2016 by Sue Griffith, the Genealogy Junkie.
DNAgedcom.com is a third-party tools website, created by Rob Warthen, which hosts multiple tools; some are free and some are fee-based. Subscribers gain access to additional, fee-based tools. Registration is required for all tools.
- Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer (ADSA); created by VCGS member Don Worth, and hosted on DNAgedcom.com. The ADSA is a tool to assist with visualization of triangulated match groups, and works with Family Tree DNA results and also GEDmatch results. Read the ADSA Manual and the pertinent Quick Start Guide, and then try it out.
- DNAGedcom Client – downloadable software that runs on your desktop, the DNAGedcomClient downloads your AncestryDNA and your 23andMe match data. You must be a subscriber to download the DNAGedcom Client.
GEDmatch.com is a third-party tools website which hosts multiple tools; some are free and some are fee-based. The fee-based tools are referred to as "Tier 1" tools. Registration is required for all tools.
- Additional reading to round out your knowledge of GEDmatch.com
- A post detailing how to use ADSA with Tier 1 GEDmatch
- A series of three related articles on the Tier 1 "Lazarus" service, all posted by Blaine Bettinger, the Genetic Genealogist.
- A two-part series on uploading to GEDmatch.com from AncestryDNA – both posted by Dan Stone at his blog, Adventures in Genealogy Research.
- A Facebook Group for GEDmatch users:
MyHeritage and Geni Add DNA Capabilities
MyHeritage and Geni are genealogy vendors in their own right, but in regard to DNA, I consider them "third-party" because they incorporate your DNA results from the primary vendor into their site. These two genealogy sites are related companies under the same corporate umbrella, but are largely managed independently of each other. In June 2016, both began to offer DNA capabilities along with their previous offerings.
Online One World Trees
An online pedigree, or tree, is a crucial tool for any genetic genealogist. It is important to have something to share with your matches, to assist you both in finding your most recent common ancestor. There are many approaches to this, and any genetic genealogist has a plethora of choices for online pedigree trees to share with matches. Below is a selection of articles dealing specifically with One World trees.
- Comparison of FamilySearch, Geni, and WikiTree
- More about WikiTree
This section builds on the Y-DNA Basics section, above. Additional references will be added as they are identified.
Looking for encouragement? Perhaps these success stories will help.
Unlike the stories above, the link below will take you to a blog with 74 entries (and counting!); in fact, it is more like a book with 74 chapters. But be forewarned: this tale is highly readable and will draw you in until you wonder where your day went!
Here is an interesting one - the discovery of the story of two babies, switched at birth, in 1913. We can read this story from two sides - one author is a daughter of one of the babies, the other author is a granddaughter of the other baby.
Genetic Genealogy Websites & Bloggers
There are many excellent genealogy blogs; this list focuses on bloggers whose specialty is DNA & genealogy. The list is ordered roughly by frequency of posts.
- The Legal Genealogist – Judy G. Russell posts every day on the law and genealogy, and Sundays are DNA Day. Be sure to check in every Sunday at a minimum!
- DNAeXplained – Roberta Estes is the second most prolific poster in this list. Enjoy her near-daily postings on DNA, genealogy, family, and sometimes, quilts!
- Kitty Cooper's Blog – Kitty Munson Cooper posts several times each month on genetic genealogy topics (and sometimes on gardening). She is also the developer of two chromosome mapping tools which you can find on her site, and she maintains the DNA-NEWBIE FAQ on the DNA-NEWBIE Yahoo! Group.
- DNA and Family Tree Research – Maurice Gleeson presents his thoughts here. Although he is located in the UK, he is a popular presenter at events like SCGS's Jamboree. He has posted his presentations and slides on this site, so you can review them at your leisure. Which is a good thing, since he is a high-energy, high-octane presenter!
- Segmentology – Jim Bartlett's blog about triangulation and chromosome mapping.
- The Genetic Genealogist – Blaine Bettinger is a popular speaker and knowledgable genetic genealogist; you will find his posts enjoyable and informative.
- Your Genetic Genealogist – CeCe Moore, a popular speaker on DNA & genealogy, is currently the genetic genealogy consultant for "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." airing on PBS.
- Genealogy Junkie – Follow Sue Griffith's journey from a DNA neophyte to a DNA blogger.
DNA-Related Forums, Facebook Groups, ListServes, and Email Lists
Want more DNA-related email in your inbox? Here you go! Choose the one(s) that speak to your specific interests!
Lookups, Downloads, and FAQs
- International Society for Genetic Genealogy – ISOGG provides extensive resources and is free to join. The site includes a Wiki and a Glossary, among other resources.
- Genetic Genealogy Standards – Created by a committee including genealogists, genetic genealogists, and scientists, and with public input, published on 10 Jan 2015.
- DNA Testing Adviser – Richard Hill offers a free e-book (pdf format) titled "Guide to DNA Testing" and published in 2014. It is available free by subscribing to his email list.
- The Genetic Genealogist – Blaine Bettinger, mentioned above under Bloggers, has available a free e-book (pdf format) titled "I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What?" and published in 2008.
Some of the bloggers listed above provided year-end retrospectives, highlighting the most read or most commented blog posts of the year. These are definitely worth a read!
2016 Retrospective & 2017 Resolutions
2015 Retrospective & 2016 Resolutions
Page last updated: 8 January 2017.