Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Palatine DNA Project Update May 6, 2009

Hello, Everyone.

Just a few items for discussion….

The latest news regarding the 2010 celebration of the arrival of 1710 Palatines in New York is that there will be at least two major events. One will be the national convention of Palatines to America, which will be held in Fishkill, Dutchess County, NY June 17 to 19, 2010, sponsored by the New York Chapter. The other will be in Germantown, Columbia County, NY, where East Kamp was located. It will be held October 2 and 3, 2010. Hank Jones will be the featured guest at this second event, which will include demonstrations of early farming tasks, etc. I will provide more information as it becomes available.

The presidents of Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY) and Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY) have expressed interest in our DNA project, although we have no firm commitment from either. In any case, our project will be of major interest to all those involved in the 2010 events. It can only be viewed as a succesful project, however, if we have both broad representation and pedigrees that reflect the genealogy that goes hand in hand with DNA testing. I ask everyone to please review your pedigree on the Patriarchs page at www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/palatine and send any corrections to me. If you have not already submitted your pedigree, please do so now. If I have overlooked some submissions or inadvertently “lost” them as a result of computer glitches and redesigned web sites causing an inordinate amount of disruption, please forgive me and resubmit. Notice that we are looking for basic information only. Details should be provided in Gedcoms uploaded to FTDNA, Ysearch, Rootsweb and other web sites.

I have reorganized the Patriarchs page (Y-DNA) into three groups:

1. Those who have a strong paper trail and/or a DNA match to a descendant of a 1710 immigrant to New York. All of these show a Hunter List number.
2. Those who are likely to be related to a 1710er, but no firm evidence exists.
3. Those whose immigrant ancestor came later or is not yet identified but has a name or other clue.

The hope is that as our membership grows, more men will be matched so as to confirm or deny relatedness. I urge everyone to encourage the people they match who may be outside our project to join us so that we can have a broad base for this important study.

Additional testing is something many of you may want to consider. For Y-DNA, for genealogical purposes, the norm is 37 markers. Many upgrade to 67, especially if they are trying to confirm a possible/probable match. But there are other tests, too, that should be evaluated. For example, a Deep Clade test will refine your haplogroup placement on the tree of mankind and help to determine the path your early ancestors took out of Africa and on to populate the world. Additionally, there are Advanced Tests for some haplogroups that refine this placement even further and contribute to population research. For example, if your haplogroup has been predicted to be R1b1b2 and you have not had a Deep Clade test that included L-21, you may want to order it or the L-21 Advanced Test to become part of a special study being made of a subset of the German population that tests reveal is L-21+.

For one’s maternal line there are three levels of testing mtDNA. The first, HVR1, provides the first level of haplogroup but little chance for finding genealogical matches. The second, HVR2, offers a somewhat better chance, although still quite remote, for genealogical purposes. The third and ultimate test is the FGS, or Full Genetic Sequence. According to FTDNA, “The entire mitochondrial genome is tested and this is the last mtDNA test that a person would need to take. A perfect match indicates a common ancestor in recent times. Results identify the ethnic and geographic origin of the maternal line.”

Please notice that FTDNA has made a change to how the earliest known ancestor is displayed. From your personal page, you will now see a new category in the left column: My Maps. Here you will see a map and whatever you have stated as your earliest known ancestor and origin. Click on Edit to make any changes to that information. FTDNA has added a feature that automatically assigns the latitude/longitude to the location you specify and this in turn permits your ancestral point to be placed on the map. This is a valuable feature for all of us, and I hope you will be sure to make this entry as meaningful as possible. Remember, this is also what appears on the Results Chart instead of your actual name or kit number at www.ftdna.com/public/palatinednaproject.

I hope all of you have gained some benefit from the application of DNA testing to your traditional genealogy, and I hope you will share any and all success stories! Please keep me informed of any new discoveries and new genealogical breakthroughs. It is important to all of us to recruit more men and women to be tested, and success stories are key. Be sure to have new prospects join a project, either geographic like this one or surname, first to benefit from the greatly reduced prices afforded to projects.

Finally, if you have not already done so, please upload your results to Ysearch and/or Mitosearch. Links are provided on your personal page under Matches. The upload is done automatically by FTDNA, but you must initiate it and obtain a user name and password so that you can check for matches at these public databases. You should do this often.

Your questions and comments are always welcome. Please don’t hesitate to write or call me (770-483-2903).

Happy researching!

Best regards,
Doris Wheeler, Volunteer Project Administrator

DNA Project Update July 14, 2009

Good morning, Everyone.

This is to remind you of the July sale at Family Tree DNA. You can order the 37-marker Y-DNA test for just $119, but only through the end of July. Please be sure to tell your friends and family members, especially distant cousins who can help solve long-standing puzzles and brick walls. This price is available only to projects, so everyone should find a project to join first – either surname or geographic.

I also want to mention the new social networking site specifically for genealogists: http://www.GenealogyWise.com. We now have a Palatine Group there http://www.genealogywise.com/group/palatinesof1710 and you are encouraged to sign up and use it to further your genealogy and to find answers to many questions. The site has met with extraordinary success since launching just last Friday. Come explore!

Another item that may interest you is a blog I have set up specifically to deal with genetic genealogy. It will not be updated on a regular basis, only when I feel there is something worthwhile to share. Do join us there and feel free to comment: http://GenealogyAndDNA.blogspot.com.

Still hoping someone would like to share some of the joys of managing our project. You may help however you like, spend as much or as little time as you wish. All takers are welcome!

Write anytime with questions, comments, or….

Best regards,
Doris Wheeler

DNA Project Update March 19, 2009

DNA Project Update March 19, 2009

Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend the fifth annual conference of project administrators sponsored by Family Tree DNA in Houston. This is always a worthwhile event, and I’d like to share with all of you some of what I learned.

Websites: I’m sure most of you have already noticed that the FTDNA website has had a significant upgrade and is much easier to navigate and use. (Of course, the same is true of our World Families Network site.)

Haplogroups: The haplogroup tree (also known as phylogenetic tree or tree of mankind) is constantly growing as new SNPs are discovered. Some of you have had the Deep Clade test, which refines your individual placement on the tree (determines the subgroup to which you belong and, therefore, the smallest twig so far identified on your branch). To explore where you now are placed, go to your personal page at FTDNA and click on the Haplotree tab. There are also advanced tests to further refine your placement in subgroups. There is a bit of overlap among the various panels of Advanced Tests now, but this is undergoing careful examination and will be minimized if not eliminated soon.

Some of the advanced tests can be helpful in establishing break points in lineages in order to assign descendants within a family to a specific common ancestor.

Projects: Effective immediately, everyone tested at Family Tree DNA may join as many projects as he or she wishes. (Click the Join tab on your personal page and scroll through the options.) You are certainly encouraged to join your haplogroup project, of course, since you can only match someone who has the same haplogroup that you do.

You may also join geographic projects that interest you. For example, if you have German roots, you may want to join the Germany-DNA and the Colonial German DNA project as well as the Palatine project if you fit within the parameters of all three groups. Or join the British Isles and Lancashire groups if that is your place of origin.

Of course, the surname project continues to be the primary project for everyone if one exists for your name. Remember to look for alternative spellings too.

Legal Concerns: Legislation has been passed in California, New York and Maryland that prevents the sale of DNA kits direct to consumers. They require that a medical professional place the order. More legislation is threatened in other states. FTDNA is working with authorities to help disassociate genealogical testing from medical testing. There is much confusion among the public, which often does not distinguish between them. As you know, genealogical testing is not autosomal testing. That is, it does not deal with 22 of the 23 chromosomes we inherit from each parent. We look only at the non-recombining 23rd chromosome, the Y chromosome for men and the mitochondria for women.

The position that we project administrators all agree on is that we should not be prevented from learning as much as we wish about ourselves. A genealogical DNA test is certainly less revealing than a paternity test or, indeed, a pregnancy test, both of which are readily available over the counter. Results from these can produce far more anguish than dealing with ancestry issues in most cases. A bill was introduced in Congress, but it is not actively being considered now. Most proposed legislation is aimed at companies like 23andMe and DeCodeMe that are medically oriented and test the other 22 chromosomes, but there is a potential risk for confusion between them and Family Tree DNA.

Testing Standards: FTDNA has always worked closely with the National Institute of Standards, which has finally taken a position that should help to standardize test results nomenclature across testing companies. Some labs have always taken a proprietary approach, and they may continue to do so, but standards are now in place. Each of you may see some of your marker values change over the coming weeks as FTDNA implements changes to three of its markers. This does not mean there is any underlying change, only in the nomenclature.

National Geographic/Genographic Project: This project will continue to recruit participants until sometime next year. At that time, they will destroy all samples submitted to them. If you know anyone who has tested with National Geographic, be sure to encourage them to authorize their transfer to Family Tree DNA to allow future testing. As you may know, FTDNA does all the testing for this project. Therefore, they have physical possession of the samples to be destroyed. Transfer to FTDNA’s repository is therefore FREE and very simple to accomplish. The testee simply signs into his page at National Geographic/Genographic, scrolls to the bottom of the page where it says “More information…”, clicks on it and finds the link to authorize transfer.

All of you who have already tested with FTDNA may have your results added to the National Geographic Project for a charge of $15. This allows you to contribute to this major population study, which I highly recommend. The option to allow you to do this is on your personal page at FTDNA.

About mtDNA: As we all know, it is extremely difficult to trace a maternal lineage because the surname changes every generation. The mtDNA test has been less than useful genealogically because mtDNA mutates so slowly. HVR I reveals one mutation per 20,000 years! The one significant factor is “private SNPs” which can only be discovered in the FGS (Full Genetic Sequence) test. The FGS mutation rate is one per 4,000 years. FTDNA now has 4100 FGS test results in its database. When uploaded to GenBank, these results are an extremely valuable resource for geneticists and population scientists.

Work in Progress: A “walk through the Y” is a new offering that is still experimental. It is a way to participate in advanced testing that is expected to yield new SNPs within haplogroups but geared to specific subgroups of people who might benefit from a deep analysis of the Y. At a cost of $750, it is not expected to attract large numbers of people, but we will watch carefully as work continues.

The lab is working to develop a new “maximum likelihood” estimated TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor). Needed are four-generation volunteers and groups of close relatives who all have tested to 67 markers. If anyone is interested in participating, please let me know. The goal is to build a better model taking into account variable mutation rates, asymmetry, multiple steps, and allele-specifity. We were reminded that the present method of estimating TMRCA is highly useful for unknown single events, but is much less so where a pedigree is known from traditional genealogy. In other words, just because a TMRCA estimate suggests a difference of many generations, we should always consider the paper trail as equally important. We should not apply the probabilities to known events.

Ysearch will be redesigned this year. (Everyone should automatically upload his results from his personal page every time he receives any new test results.) For now, you can add any advanced marker results in the Comments field.

Miscellaneous: Some of you have asked what the DYS numbers mean in your test results. They are meaningless for all practical purposes and represent the order in which a particular marker was discovered. Similarly, the names of Sub Haplogroups are formed from the first letter of the laboratory that discovered the SNP and the sequential number of the discovery within that lab.

Another question that arises sometimes is, What is the difference between a SNP and a STR. The STR (Short Tandem Repeat) is equivalent to DYS numbers (DNA Y-chromosome Segment), the markers we all know and love; a SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) refers to the entities tested to refine haplogroup placement. (Aren’t you glad you asked? GRIN)

If I think of anything else, I’ll write again. Questions are always welcome. Write anytime!

Best regards,
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~dorisw (personal website)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Very Basic Introduction to DNA Testing

Why has genetic genealogy become the hottest tool in the genealogist’s toolbag?

DNA testing does not substitute for traditional genealogy; it supplements it. The object of testing is to find matches that will help you further your own genealogy.

Y-DNA testing, which is available only to men (because only they have a Y-chromosome), allows you to trace a man’s paternal line -- father to his father to his father, etc. Usually that line comes down to you via the same surname, or a spelling variation thereof. If you find a solid match to a man who has the same surname, then there is a 99% chance that you share a common ancestor with that man, and you want to get in touch to share pedigrees and try to determine who that ancestor was. Hopefully, the other person has taken his genealogy back further than you have so that you can piggyback on his work.

If there is no match within the surname group, there can be several reasons:

1. No one with matching DNA has tested yet.
2. Your line has literally died out, meaning there are no male survivors.
3. One or more of you having the same surname has a lineage break, sometimes called a nonpaternal event. This can arise because of adoption, choice, marital infidelity, or a host of other reasons, including faulty genealogical research. The nonpaternal event could have occurred many generations ago or very recently.

Once you have found matches to your surname – say, three men match at 35 of 37 markers, you can begin to sort them into sublineages. For example, the three men in our example may each descend from a different brother who arrived in America many generations ago. This is where mutations come into play. When a mutation (a small change to the actual DNA) occurs in one person, it is carried by all that person’s descendants and so serves as a defining marker. It shows up as a different value in one person’s haplotype. You will want to test several distantly related cousins to establish each one’s lineage.

mtDNA testing is available to both men and women and traces the maternal line – mother to her mother to her mother, etc. The genealogical value of mtDNA testing is not as strong as Y-DNA because mtDNA mutates very slowly. Advanced mtDNA testing can be very useful, however.

For more information, please visit http://The Genetic Genealogist and download the extremely useful ebook, "I Have The Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What?"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Will genetic genealogy lose its place?

A small but vocal group of scientists and legislators are clamoring for government regulation of DNA testing. A few states have already succumbed to this hysteria, and Washington has dipped its toe into the murky waters.

What does this mean to family genealogists like us? It could mean that we would have to have our family doctor submit an order for us to obtain a simple Y-DNA test. And the results would go to him or her. (Could there be a touch of self-interest on the part of the scientific and medical community?) As genealogists, how many of us would be willing to involve our personal doctor in our genealogy quest – and pay for the privilege? What does our family doctor know about genealogy, and does he care? Is he really the best qualified person to interpret results for us? Did you ever think you would have to get your family doctor to approve before you could do genealogy? It all sounds rather silly to me.

One argument in favor of such regulation is that people do not understand what they are getting when they buy a test. But isn’t this true of many things? Isn’t it up to the consumer to research and understand what he is buying? Another is that there are claims being made by some companies that promise far more than they can deliver. But this is a fact of life. It is up to the consumer to evaluate these claims.

I am proud to know that Family Tree DNA (the company I have chosen for all my DNA Projects (see links in the sidebar) is the acknowledged leader in the business of genetic genealogical testing and, in fact, was awarded the Better Business Bureau’s Award for Excellence in customer service. Its website has been designated as the "Best Cutting Edge Web Site" by Family Tree Magazine. Even more important is the fact that Family Tree DNA (and ISOGG, the International Society for Genetic Genealogy) provides references to an extensive library of books, videos and scientific journals for its customers’ edification. It has knowledgeable people on staff (as well as a full complement of scientists) who can and do answer questions in a timely manner. It is deeply involved in scientific research to find new SNPs and STRs that offer new avenues to pursue for those who are interested in both anthropology and genealogy and in getting as much as possible out of their testing experience. (SNPs are the portions of DNA that reflect deep ancestry – thousands of years ago. STRs are the markers used for genealogical purposes.)

Another service provided by FTDNA is its support for “projects.” All project members benefit from that support by having access to significantly reduced prices and special promotions that are only available through projects. Additionally, volunteer project administrators like me are provided with ongoing education so that we can better serve our clients. We seek to educate and to help explain test results so that our clients do understand what they are buying and why, and what the results mean.

While the line between genetic genealogy and genome testing for health reasons is quite sharp, the naysayers are beginning to disregard that line and lump all genetic testing together. That is a sad day for genealogists who are just now beginning to reap the solid rewards of having databases that are large enough to provide answers to sticky questions. Ever larger databases of test results help all of us learn more about our family history and answer the age-old question, “Where do we come from?”. Any disruption of the flow of new testees is a disservice to those who have already tested and to the cause of genealogy for everyone. The jury is still out regarding the viability of genetic testing for disease. Obviously, again, the size of the database is critical and our knowledge will grow only as the database grows. And, in addition to all the reasons given above, there is the simple matter of personal choice that is taken away by increased regulation.

Since the key is an educated public, here are two websites that are highly recommended: www.isogg.org and www.thegeneticgenealogist.com.

About my genealogy

Our Dutch, English and German ancestors settled in New England and New York in the 17th and 18th centuries.

My role as family genealogist has led me to a new love for history and an appreciation for the courage of our ancestors. We are their legacy. I hope you will find items of interest as you explore my blog and all the links I have supplied.

Genetic genealogy works hand in hand with traditional genealogy. I am using it to confirm and/or disprove existing paper trails and uncovering exciting family links as a result.

I hope you will share with me any discoveries you may make through the work I have done. I love to hear your success stories!

Contact me anytime with questions, comments, suggestions, etc.