Wednesday, April 3, 2013

DNA in My Family Genealogy

So I have always been told there is two types of genealogy/family history research.  There is the common type where you have proof, ie census records, death certificate, marriage licence.  Then there is the type that you have no source documents and they call that mythology.  Just recently there is a new type of research that has finally become cost efficient for the genealogy community to partake in, genetic research.  This is the real scientific proof of your ancestors and we all carry it around with us in our DNA.  While this new type of research can tell you the where, its still up to you to know the who and when.

My first attempt with this was with Family Tree DNA.  I paid some money and got the mid-level 37 marker Y-chromosome DNA test.  I'm not going to get into the science behind the test, but the Y-DNA test is used to figure out your male ancestry.  It was a simple cheek swab and off in the mail it went, almost 6 months later I started getting results.  First my 12 markers then 25 and 37 a few weeks later.  While the results didn't conclude that I have an exact match with the Stitt ancestral line, and I didn't get any matches to my 25 or 37 markers, I did get 37 matches with my 12 marker.  What that means: If you find that you are an exact (12 for 12) match to another individual. This tells you that there is about a 50% chance that the two of you share a common ancestor within 7 generations, and a 95% chance that the common ancestor is within 23 generations.  .
This test also tells me my Haplogroup which is where your family is from based on your dna's molecular evolution.  My results came back as  R1b1a2 (R-M269) which is Western Europe

My second test was actually an offer from AncestryDNA to participate in their Beta test when they first acquired the DNA labs.  This totally come out of the blue but who would pass up a DNA test for the price of shipping.  The test in this kit was a vile of saliva  several months later, I am sure the long wait was the huge number of people they asked to start this program and that its all still beta testing as they figure out how they want to run this new branch of the company.  So to explain this test, where the Family Tree DNA was just 37 markers and only did the direct paternal lineage, this AncestryDNA test is more of a Family Finder test where they look at 700,000+ markers on all branches of your tree.  Spring of last year AncestryDNA started posting the beginning results of my test.
The first results they posted was my Genetic Ethnicity, this was at first quite a shock, I have alway researched the family coming from the British Isles   So with results of Central European, Scandinavian, and Uncertain was not what I expected.

That wasn't the end of it, some time later they started posting results of cousin matches, people who you are related two based on the science.  These were all broken down to by generations ie 1st-3rd cousins 4th-6th cousins and so on with this note: 'Distant cousin' matches (5th cousins or greater) have a lower degree of certainty compared to 3rd and 4th cousins. Even though there is a 50% (or less) chance that you are related, these matches are still good leads. Each of these cousins you can click on and if the cousin has posted their tree with public permissions you would see their tree and a list of matching surnames between you and their tree.  As the months have gone by I have tried to find matches with these trees but it is a tough job.  While they give you a list of matching surnames, like they noted earlier is just a lead, and some of the time these surnames are from both sides of my family tree and as far as I have been able to research my paternal and maternal sides did not cross until me.  Months and months go by and I get more of these cousins, and I should mention I don't have any that are closer than 4th-6th cousins, which means they are cousins with a common ancestor going to about the civil war or later, but more results are always coming in and I sit with 3500 matches now.  Again I want to mention that they are still Beta testing, how to run this new program.  One of the new features that came out is Hints "the shaky leaf".  These are matches where they have looked at your tree and the cousin's tree and found the common ancestor.  When you click on these you get to see a relationship chart showing how you too are related, this takes all the guesswork out of the list of matching surnames.  Out of a total 3500 genetic cousins 9 have the shaky leaf hint of how we are related. Below is how those are hints are related to me.  The superscript is the number of generation for that surname, the subscript is the birth year of that common ancestor. 

I haven't started contacting these cousins as I am trying to clean up and making sure my mythology has some source documents behind it.  I have been contacted by some of those 3500 other matches but I haven't had any success making new discoveries within those 3500.  

I will leave you with that for now.  I am sure I will blog in the future as I make new connections and discoveries.  Hope you all enjoyed and if you decide to adventure into the DNA side of genealogy feel free to ask me questions and check with me I may know of some current discounts.