Tag: dna

ancestrydna-zalewskiOne of those days I was waiting for finally happened. A DNA match contacted me that is from the Jacob Zalewski line that I had always assumed was the brother of my great-great grandfather, Frank Zalewski. This proves that Jacob and Frank are definitely related. They are probably brothers (as all other evidence points to) but not proven 100%.

Unfortunately, the match comes to me from AncestryDNA. While AncestryDNA is one of the most popular, it also gives the least amount of advanced tools. I cannot see where we match on our DNA as there is no Chromosome Browser like every other site has. I have contacted my match and asked if they would upload their data to GEDMatch so we can do the more advanced matching. I’d really love to see which part of my chromosome comes from my Zalewski line. That could point me towards more Zalewski relations and possibly finally breaking down more of that monstrous Zalewski line brick wall.

The possible Jacob-Frank connection all started back in July 2009 when I noticed a Jacob Zalewski family living with and quite near Frank and his family in Milwaukee in multiple city directories. After many years and finding more and more cross-family connections, I just assumed they were brothers as the pile of evidence was getting quite large. Though, I was always waiting and hoping for a DNA connection. I was planning on trying to convince a few distant cousins from that line that I had found to do a DNA test (I would probably even have paid for it.)

I’m excited. We’ll see where we go from here.

It was exiting to see another cousin listed on my 23andMe DNA Relatives list yesterday. While going through my matches, I noticed a familiar name, my paternal grandmother’s cousin (so, my first cousin, once removed.) I now have 4 confirmed cousin matches on that list (excluding my father.)

Also, earlier this week I confirmed the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) speculation on another one of my matches. I did some digging on who we thought was our common ancestor and was able to prove it (with like 95% certainty) that we share 3rd-great-grandparents. I found a lucky obituary via a Google search that confirmed her connection to the TROKA surname. Once there, it just took a little source triangulation to confirm dates and connections back up to Thomas Troka to prove he is the brother of my great-great-grandfather, Joseph Troka.

3 out of the 4 of the confirmed cousins on my list are paternal (1 first cousin; 1 third cousin, twice removed; 1 first cousin, once removed.) The connection on my maternal side is a third cousin through my paternal grandfather. I can now fill in the shared genomes of our MRCAs and see exactly which ancestors I received which chromosomes from. Obviously the goal in that is to go back as far as possible to make it as granular as possible.

Below is my updated Chromosome Map, courtesy of the Chromosome Mapping Tool by Kitty Cooper. Added are the new mapping points for my paternal great-great-grandparents, Thomas & Emma Jane (Firmenich) CORRIGAN and also my paternal grandparents, Richard & Mary Jane (Corrigan) ZALEWSKI.

Click for full size
Click for full size and clearer version

Funny tidbit, I scheduled this post to go up at π (Pi) today: 3/14/15 9:26

One of the first steps in my 2015 Year of the DNA project is to look at new avenues of research and get my DNA info out there to other possible cousins. In the last few days I did a few things.

I finally transferred my 23andMe DNA over to the Family Tree DNA Family Finder. You can transfer it over for free right now to see a bunch of your matches, but you can’t do much analyzing and meeting until you pay the $39 transfer price. It’s actually a good deal to get into FTDNA’s database as they have a lot of users in it already who seem more interested in genealogy than a lot of the 23andMe members. I saw a few new matches and also someone with the surname CORRIGAN, which is my paternal grandmother’s surname. We matched on a location that both my father and my paternal cousin match on, so that’s good news.

I also finally donated to GEDMatch.com. I’ve been using it for a long time and even though it’s mostly flaky when using it due to its popularity, it’s still an invaluable tool to be able to match people from multiple testing companies. With a $10 donation, you also get access to their “Tier 1” tools like Triangulation, which are pretty helpful.

And I also updated my DNA information over at WikiTree. Once you add that, it will add your information to anyone that you may share DNA with including Y-DNA, mtDNA, and Autosomal. This way when someone finds one of their ancestors, they will also see that you share DNA with this ancestor. If they’ve also taken a test (or have a GEDMatch ID) you can see the match info. It’s just another way to find more people. You can see how it looks here on my great-great-grandfather’s wiki page.

Hopefully, some of these updates will help bring more matches and cousins to my door (well, not physically to my front door, that’d be weird.)


DNA CompositionAs some of you may know, genetic genealogy exploded in 2014. Hundreds of thousands of people have now tested their DNA with the big three testing companies (23andMe, Family Tree DNA, or Ancestry.) I have been interested in tracing my ancestry using DNA since back in 2006 with the first version of National Geographic’s Genographic Project when I swabbed my cheek for the first time (and last, actually, since the other tests were taken differently. )

I’m extremely interested in digging deeper into my DNA origins and my DNA matches, whether it’s using Autosomal DNA or Y-DNA. This year I’m planning to dig deeper and do more than ever before. Advanced analysis is a somewhat difficult thing to get into. There is a lot of information to learn and process along with the requirement of lots of DNA data to work with. I hope to use this new goal as a way to post about my journey and hopefully teach you along the way. People related to me may find it even more interesting.

Unbeknownst to me, one of my paternal cousins took a 23andMe test last year. I learned about this on Christmas Eve and have since hooked up with him on the site. What’s cool about that is that I can now mostly confirm which parts of my DNA come from my paternal grandparents. Though, not all of it, only the sections that we match on specifically since my father and his father may have have received different parts of DNA from my grandparents, which in turn may also be different than what he finally got from his father (my uncle.) Hopefully, other closer cousins start to test.

I’m not sure what my first post will be about, but we’ll see once I start digging. I’ve been recently reading a lot of posts from both Roberta Estes at DNAeXplained and Kitty Cooper. They do some great posts on the inner workings and complexities of our DNA and matching it with other people. Some of the posts get quite technical, and even if I don’t completely understand it, I love it. I guess that’s the data geek in me.

Here are some of my general goals, in no particular order:

  • Do more advanced analysis on some of my largest matches. Try to find MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor.)
  • Try to prod more cousins (close and distant) to test with one of the companies (preferably not Ancestry, or if they do, to upload their data to GEDMatch.)
  • Try to determine which parts of my DNA come from which ancestors (Chromosome Mapping.) I have a bit of it already. Works together with the last two goals.
  • Possibly get more Y-DNA upgrades with my data on Family Tree DNA to help determine my deeper R1a1a subclade using the Family Tree DNA project, currently it’s estimated to be R1a1a1b1a2b* or YP340-45 (in the Carpathian area of Section 6 on that linked graphic), but I need more of my Y-DNA analyzed to get more information. This one will cost something.
  • Post somewhat consistently about my journey and what I’m learning, even if it’s confusing to me.

After getting my DNA tests completed and for the past few years pouring over that data using tools like GEDMatch, and most recently, Genome Mate, I’ve started to accumulate Most Recent Common Ancestors (MRCA) with some of my DNA matches. How to figure those out is another post entirely.

Granted, I don’t have a lot of confirmed MRCAs, yet, but I do have a few. You can use this data to make a chromosome mapping. Genome Mate does this for you in the software, but there is also a web version (seen below) that will do it for you. This will paint all of the segments on your chromosome that match those ancestors. Once you get a lot of confirmed MRCAs, the mapping looks really cool. Mine is getting started.

Click for full version.Do your own here: http://kittymunson.com/dna/ChromosomeMapper.php
Click for full version. Do your own here.

As you can see, I only have 2 MRCAs confirmed, one on each side. My paternal 3rd-great-grandparents, Michael Troka and Josylna Grabowska and my maternal great-great-grandparents, Carl Last & Augusta Luedtke.

The Troka connection is not yet fully confirmed, but the information we have is pretty solid. The Last connection is confirmed as I’ve matched up family trees with a 3rd cousin I found via a 23andMe match. I have a few more matches in progress that are close to finding information on our MRCA. It can be tough work sometimes, but there is hope of finding all new ancestors.

I mentioned in a recent post that I was able to get 23andMe tests for my father and my father-in-law that would hopefully help narrow down DNA matches and also find out more about ourselves. Those tests have been taken, sent in, and now finally analyzed. There were no surprising results, but it does help make a clearer picture of certain things.

With my father’s tests, I was also able to get his mtDNA (or Maternal) Line passed down from his mother’s line. The surnames that it follows would be CORRIGAN > BRAATZ > STEARNS > SCHUMACHER > HEINZ > HETTLER and that’s as far as I have right now. It’s basically a deep German line (minus the obvious Irish one in the beginning.) His mtDNA haplogroup is U4, but the subgroup is U4a3. 23andMe says:

Haplogroup U4 is found in western Eurasia, from Mongolia to central Europe. It arose about 25,000 years ago and subsequently spread with the migrations that followed the end of the Ice Age about 14,000 years ago.

[U4a] diverged from its U4 sister lineages about 21,000 years ago in the region surrounding the Baltic Sea. Today it is most common among the people of the Volga River and Ural Mountains of Russia, such as the Chuvash, Kets and Mari. It is also common among the Baltic and Finnish people of northern Europe who speak languages related to the Finno-Ugric tongues of the Volga-Ural region in western Russia.

That didn’t really surprise me. As for the YDNA line, which I also share, what is interesting is that my haplogroup is R1a1a* which usually means they know you’re R1a1a, but more than likely part of a subgroup. My father’s YDNA haplogroup is found to be just R1a1a, technically putting us in separate groups on the site. More than likely their tests are now more accurate and figured out that we’re directly from the R1a1a haplogroup.

My father-in-law’s tests were doubly useful as both the YDNA and mtDNA info was new to us as my wife doesn’t get either of those passed down from him. His mtDNA line, which follows the surnames: COLLINS > HUIZEL > REINDL > BOHM. The research on this line ends in the South Bohemian section the Czech Republic, which I assume was Czechoslovakia at the time. His mtDNA haplogroup is found to be H5.

H5 appears to have originated during the Ice Age, as the human population of Europe retreated to the few relatively mild pockets of the otherwise frozen continent. The haplogroup appears to have sprung up somewhere near the Caucasus Mountains, or in forests near the Black Sea. H5 is particularly common today in Georgia and in other populations from the Caucasus region. Not long after it originated, a few migrants carried H5 along the southern fringes of Europe into the Balkans and as far west as France, where the haplogroup can still be found today.

It seems to line up with the little amount of data we have on that line. His YDNA line, which we assumed was pretty deep Irish as the surname is MORAN, was pretty close to our assumptions. The YDNA haplogroup was found to be (besides the longest one ever) R1b1b2a1a2f*. There is that little asterisk again.

R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland, where the vast majority of men carry Y-chromosomes belonging to the haplogroup. Researchers have recently discovered that a large subset of men assigned to the haplogroup may be direct male descendants of an Irish king who ruled during the 4th and early 5th centuries. According to Irish history, a king named Niall of the Nine Hostages established the Ui Neill dynasty that ruled the island country for the next millennium.

Northwestern Ireland is said to have been the core of Niall’s kingdom; and that is exactly where men bearing the genetic signature associated with him are most common. Genetic analysis suggests that all these men share a common ancestor who lived about 1,700 years ago. Among men living in northwestern Ireland today that date is closer to 1,000 years ago. Those dates neatly bracket the era when Niall is supposed to have reigned.

Image copyright The New York Times.
Image copyright The New York Times.

Besides matching our assumptions, that is a cool fact about men from that haplogroup. It’s the first haplogroup I’ve dealt with that names an actual (possible) ancestor. It also gives a highly-probable area of where to look for the origin of his MORAN ancestors.

Outside of the haplogroup testing, we’re still using this new info to break down DNA matches. Having at least one parent allows you to know which side a match comes from, narrowing down the research. I’m still working on that. The tests also gave us some interesting data on our Ancestry Composition which I will post about soon.

Anyone test their parents or other close relations and get some useful information?

Last week, my wife received a message at 23andMe, which isn’t out of the ordinary. Since I handle our accounts, I checked the message. It was from a woman who saw that her and my wife were estimated to be 5th cousins, based on their DNA matching. That’s not that interesting, as most people have dozens, if not hundreds, of matches on the site. The interesting part is that she mentions that she was abandoned when she was born and has no idea about her parents or her ancestry. 

matchI told her that I was going to send her an invitation on the site to share genomes so that we could see exactly where her and my wife match. I told her I could plug that information into a spreadsheet I made that helps me keep track of the matches and to also keep track of possible common ancestors from those matches (I need to post about that at some point.) She shared her genomes and I entered her data.

I messaged her back and told her she was pretty lucky. She matched my wife on the 2nd Genome and it happened to be the same area as another match that we had determined a possible common ancestor. Based on the data, this ancestor was more than likely her ancestor, too. I sent her a link to my family tree site to John C Lant and told her that he was probably her ancestor. She was very happy since she said she didn’t have any other ancestors. Helping her out made us feel really good and I’m glad we could shed some more light on her mystery. It’s amazing what DNA can do.

If you’d like to read more about her situation, she sent me a link to a news story about herself titled A tale of an abandoned baby, a dime and a Lawrence laundromat

Also, on the DNA front. I ended up ordering 2 more 23andMe kits during their price drop. I planned to give one to my father and one to my father-in-law to help give us more information on our genealogical matches and also get more info on their Y and mtDNA lines.

I chose the two fathers as they would give us the most information. For example, my mother would give me almost no more information (genealogically) since she would only have mtDNA info, which I also have myself. Even though my father has the same Y-DNA line as me, he will give me his mtDNA line through my grandmother. My father-in-law will give us  more information since my wife does not get his Y-DNA line so we will get that and also his mtDNA line. Another helpful thing is that we will now be able to split our results between mother and father since we will have one of them. This will help figure out which side of the family a DNA match comes from. My wife also has some Native American composition and we’re curious to see which side that came from.

Have you had any interesting things happen with your DNA results?

This is Part 4 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Today we’re going to look into the last set of DNA that you can use in your research, Autosomal DNA. This is DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes (the X chromosome and the Y chromosome). Each pair of autosomes is inherited the same way.

For each pair of autosomes, you received one from your mother and one from your father. Before the autosomes were sent to you, they were randomly jumbled in a process called recombination. Your parents also received their autosomes from their parents who also recombined them. So, your autosomes are random mixtures of all of your ancestors autosomes. All branches of your ancestry contribute to your Autosomal DNA. Obviously, the more distant the ancestor is, the less you share with them. Closer relatives will share larger fragments with you compared to distant relatives.

For example, this chart below shows, on average, how much autosomal DNA you share with specific relatives:

Public domain Image from Wikimedia Commons. Click for larger.
Public domain Image from Wikimedia Commons. Click for larger.

This is the DNA that most places use to match you up with potential cousins using Relative Finder from 23andMe or Family Finder from Family Tree DNA. If you have shared genomes with people on 23andMe, you can go to “Ancestry Labs” on the menu and choose “Family Inheritance: Advanced” to see which parts of your autosomal DNA you share, if any.

GEDMatch.com can also compare your Autosomal DNA and show you, in great detail, where you match with other individuals.

I hope you learned something. Remember, DNA testing is much more useful with an already sourced genealogy paper trail. Otherwise it will be very difficult to see how you relate to your DNA matches.

This is Part 3 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1 or Part 2.

I had the YDNA and mtDNA down pretty good in my head. One is paternal, one is maternal, and so on. Then after I submitted my info to GEDMatch,  I saw the “Compare your X-chromosome FTDNA or 23andMe result with one other result in our database” option. Ok, so what exactly does the X Chromosome tell me and how do I inherit it?

The X Chromosome is passed down by both parents, though only daughters get it from their father as the father sends over the Y Chromosome to their son instead. This makes for a weird line of inheritance through your ancestry. A good way to figure this out is to use a fan chart. I was able to find a chart on this helpful post over at The Genetic Genealogist about the X Chromosome. Here is my chart, filled in with my ancestors, telling me where I could have inherited my X Chromosome:

Click for larger
Click for larger

The charts can be found over at The Genetic Genealogist, though I had to increase the image size a bit to make it easier to work with. There is also a chart showing the estimated percentage of the X Chromosome that you get from each ancestor.

I obviously don’t have all of the boxes filled in as I don’t have those ancestors figured out, yet. On my research over at GEDMatch, I see that I match a few people on my X Chromosome. So, in theory, these people would be related to me through those ancestors in the chart above (or beyond, in the same sequence.) My French-Canadian ancestry is included in the chart above, so I undoubtedly will have a lot of connections through there as I always do. It’s not a silver bullet by any means, but it does help you narrow down your search if you find a connection, especially along with other matches in other DNA areas or common surnames.

Again, there is another very quick and helpful video on the X Chromosome over at the University of Utah’s Molecular Genealogy page. I would definitely watch it.

Next time we will talk about the other 22 Chromosomes or the Autosomal DNA.


This is Part 2 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1.

There are four main types of DNA that can be used for genealogy purposes: Autosomal, X Chromosome, Y Chromosome, and Mitochondrial DNA. Each type of DNA is passed down from parents to children in different ways, allowing different patterns or different signs to help in your research. Here is a quick video that I found very useful explaining the four types:

My DNA lines
My DNA lines. Click for larger version.

Most people that have taken DNA tests are somewhat familiar with what seem to be the “big two”: Y Chromosome (YDNA) and Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). These are the two types of DNA that literally shoot out in opposite directions from you through your ancestry, though females can only trace mtDNA. They also give you the Haplogroups that you may have seen, one Maternal and one Paternal. Mine are H11a and R1a1a, respectively. They use this to determine where your deep ancestry hails from.

YDNA is passed down from from fathers to sons. The father is the one that determines the sex of a child by either giving an X Chromosome, for female, or a Y Chromosome, for male, which is why only males can use the YDNA information. The YDNA information traces your patrilineal line (or your surname line) back thousands of years since the Y Chromosome does not change very often as it is passed down.

mtDNA is passed down only from mother to all of her children. It works in a similar way to YDNA in that you can use it to trace your matrilineal line back thousands of years (your mother’s mother’s mother and so on.)

Here is another quick video explaining mtDNA. To view a similar video on YDNA, visit the Molecular Genealogy site at the University of Utah as I can’t find a version that I can embed.

View Part 3 for an overview of the X Chromosome and how to determine which ancestors you may get it from.

DNA KitsIn the last week or so I’ve dug deeper into my DNA testing results mainly from my 23andMe test. I hope to have this be my first post in a “series” of posts about DNA for genealogy since I’ve done a lot of other research about different types of information found in your DNA.

Another genealogist on Twitter pointed me to a genetic genealogy matching site called GEDMatch.com. The site allows you to upload a copy of your raw DNA data from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA and then let you do all sorts of matching and comparing with it. The site’s user interface could use a bit of work, but we’re pretty used to that in genealogy (I’m looking at you Find-A-Grave and almost every USGenWeb site.) But underneath the hood of the site, it’s very powerful once you figure out how to use it correctly.

The first step in getting your data to GEDMatch is to get it from your original testing site. I went with 23andMe, but it seems Family Tree DNA is just as simple. Sadly, Ancestry.com does not yet allow you to download your raw data from their site, but hopefully they will add this in the future. It literally is your data.

The steps to getting this file from 23andMe is pretty easy. Even if you don’t plan on uploading it anywhere else, it’s always nice to have a copy locally as a backup.

  1. Log into your 23andMe account.
  2. At the top-right of the site, mouse over the “Account” option and select “Browse Raw Data.”
  3. On the next page, near the top, there should be a “download raw data” link. Click it.
  4. This will bring you to the download screen. Fill in the information and make sure to select “All Data.”
  5. It should then ask you to download a compressed ZIP file. This is your raw data.
  6. Feel free to do this with every account you manage, if you have more than one.

Once you have that information on your computer, browse over to GEDMatch.

  1. You’ll need to scroll down a bit to the “Upload Your Data Files” section and click on “Upload your 23andMe DNA raw data file”
  2. They have another list of steps to take to get your raw data, feel free to look it over again.
  3. Fill out the form as they tell you and upload your raw data.

Now, it will take about 24 hours for them to process your data, so check back. Come back here in the next day or so for the next in the series tentatively titled, “Now What? Can They Clone Me?” Visit Part 2 here to learn about the YDNA and mtDNA lines.

Image from nosha@flickr