Tag: dna

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

I received an email the other day from 23andMe letting me know about their new “Ancestry Composition” tool. I let it go to the back-burner since I didn’t have a chance to visit it the other day.

Today visited the link and was quite impressed. This is how it works, according to their site:

Ancestry Composition tells you what percent of your DNA comes from each of 22 populations worldwide. The analysis includes DNA you received from all of your ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived 500 years ago, before ocean-crossing ships and airplanes came on the scene.

Mine wasn’t really that surprising, as usual. Mostly Northern European with most of that going to German/French and small chunks going to the British Isles and Scandinavia, just like my Ancestry.com test. Here is a capture of my data. That 0.2% Unassigned? That’s probably troll or goblin or alien or something. Nothing to worry about.

Click for larger version
Click for larger version

Though, what was slightly surprising is when I loaded up my wife’s Ancestry Composition. I would’ve guessed she is mostly Northern European like me, with most of it going to the British Isles. It turns out she also has some Scandinavian. There was one surprising result on the list. Can you spot it?

Darcy 23andMe

That’s right. 0.2% East Asian & Native American, estimated to be about 0.1% Native American. That’s news to us. I have yet to find any connection to that, though I know this test is for way, way back. I’d be interested to see which side of her genes this came from, paternal or maternal. I’m pretty sure her dad would be interested in getting a test. He’s always interested in stuff like this. Maybe next time we visit, I can ask.

If you took a DNA test, was there anything really interesting or surprising in your results?

I’m going to delve deep into theoretical things here, but it’s something that always sort of fascinated me. Since the completion of the human genome project and the advent of more accessible DNA testing for us “normal” people, there have been amazing things coming out of that area of science and genealogy.

Besides the standard health information and deep ancestry testing, I’ve always been curious about the possibility of our ancestors leaving traces of their memories in their DNA as it gets passed down. This idea has been used in some movies, like the 1980 movie Altered States, or in video games, like the Assassin’s Creed series.

While I doubt that their specific experiences are burned into our DNA, but possibly certain memories related to their experiences. For example, an article that talks about this idea contains this:

Let’s say you have always had a significant fear of bears since you were a child. Even Smokey the Bear and other friendly Hollywood bears could not convince you to regard bears with anything but anxiety and fearful feelings.

Maybe it is possible that deep, deep within your DNA memory banks, your great-great-great-great-grandmother or great-great-great-great-grandfather had a very bad experience with a bear two hundred years ago. Maybe they saw someone be killed by a bear. Maybe they had to climb a tree to save themselves from being eaten by a bear.

Would a life-changing experience like this, resulting in knowledge very useful for survival, possibly be encoded in the DNA and passed on to future generations and you?

Who knows? I find that to be a fascinating idea. Though, I would find it even more fascinating if we could tap into these memories. Maybe then I can finally figure out my great-great-grandfather’s parent’s names.


Ancestry sent me an email a few months back giving me an early invitation to their new Ancestry DNA service. I couldn’t resist, so I ordered one and sent it back in. The results were recently posted and there are some cool new things in there.

The first interesting fact is that according to them, I am 50% Eastern Eurpoean (which is no news to me) but that I am also 45% Scandinavian. That is definitely news to me. The other 5% is lumped under “Uncertain.” Obviously, like an genealogy-related DNA test, according to Ancestry, “Your genetic ethnicity results may be updated. As more DNA samples are gathered and more data is analyzed, we expect our ethnicity predictions to become more accurate, and in some cases, more detailed.

My DNA results according to Ancestry DNA

This also doesn’t take into account recent history as DNA goes way, way back. I know I trace my family to Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, etc and none of those are listed. Poland and Germany can technically fall under “Eastern European.” According to their info, my guess is that I may descend from either the Vikings or the Goths.

While the Vikings were feared by the coastal towns of medieval Europe as seaborne raiders and violent pillagers, they were also well-travelled merchants and ambitious explorers. They raided the Mediterranean coast of Africa, settled areas as far south as the Black Sea, and traded with the Byzantine Empire.

The rise of the Viking culture spread Scandinavian ancestry far throughout Europe. Their earliest coastal voyages took them to Scotland, northeastern England and established the settlement of Dublin, Ireland. As their power continued to grow, the Vikings spread farther afield, down the Volga River in Russia, to the coast of France and Spain.

And it wasn’t just the Vikings who had an irrepressible urge for adventure. In the days of the mighty Roman Empire, the Goths, originally from Sweden, wandered south and settled in what is now eastern Germany.

That could explain the Scandinavian DNA. They settled (and probably sacked) a lot of areas I have ancestry.

The other part of Ancestry’s DNA area is the “Member Match.” The one thing that propels their test over 23andMe’s test is that it’s tired directly to member’s family trees that they uploaded. The matches are broken down into “Confidence” and “Distance.” I had 2 people match me within the “4th Cousin” distance with 96% probability. One was anonymous with no tree, so that wasn’t helpful, but I did leave them a message. The other was helpful and as soon as I saw their tree I knew how we were related.

On a side note, originally I had incorrectly linked my DNA profile to my family tree entry in my Facebook app Ancestry tree, not my full detailed main tree, which threw off the results. After I fixed this issue, when I went back to this match, it actually told me exactly which ancestor we shared. We both shared my 3rd-great-grandparents, William “Curly Bill” CORRIGAN and Mary MCCANN. I found that fascinating as I have not yet even found a genealogical match on my 23andMe test. Hopefully as more people add their DNA, I will get more matches. I do have a bunch of matches in the “5th-8th Cousin” area, but those are at Moderate confidence and I have yet to see any similarities.

Ancestry showing me exactly where we match in our genealogy. Click for larger version.

If you get an invitation or Ancestry opens the test up to everyone, I would recommend ordering one. Though, make sure you have a nice detailed tree uploaded and this will help a lot. I love the future of Ancestral DNA and it’s only getting better and cheaper.

My maternal results

On National DNA Day, April 23rd, there was news that 23andMe was selling the “Complete Edition” of their genetic test for $99. The usual price for this test is $499, so a savings of 80%. I couldn’t pass up this deal since a) I am always curious about data and information b) I wanted to go deeper into my ancestry with DNA as I’ve only done basic tests. I also planned on getting it for my wife, also, but by the time we checked the site later in the evening the price was back to normal even though it was only about 8PM here.

Well, I sent in my sample and it says it will take 6-8 weeks for results. I got my results about 4 weeks later, so that was a surprise. The Complete Edition also includes the “Health” information, which is interesting. As they mention many times, I take all of that information with a grain of salt, even though there isn’t anything major to worry about in my results.

But, this site is less interested in what type of earwax I have or my Alcohol Flush Reaction and more interested in my Maternal and Paternal DNA information. I had previous known that my maternal line was H and my paternal line was R1a1. This gave me some insight into my genetic history, but it was a basic overview. I now know more details.

My maternal line has been traced in more detail to the H11a group. Their site describes it:

H originated in the Near East and then expanded after the peak of the Ice Age into Europe, where it is the most prevalent haplogroup today. It is present in about half of the Scandinavian population and is also common along the continent’s Atlantic coast.

My maternal line is basically all German, as I wrote about in a recent SNGF post.

My paternal line (or my Zalewski line) has been traced in more detail to the R1a1a subgroup.

R1a1a is the primary haplogroup of Eastern Europe, where it spread after the end of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. The haplogroup is most common in a swath from Ukraine and the Balkans north and west into Scandinavia, along the path of the men who followed the receding glaciers into Europe. It is also common near its presumed point of origin in south-central Asia. R1a1 is one of the two most common Y-haplogroups in Slavic-speaking populations.

That makes sense, since the Zalewski line traces back to Poland/Prussia, which is in the area mentioned.

The site also has a nice “Relative Finder” that will show you people who are more than likely closely-related to you based on your genetics. You can then send an introduction to them and if they accept, you can compare your basic results. I’ve sent a few intros to people who it predicts are somewhere between 3rd and 7th cousins to me. I have yet to receive a response, but it’s only been a few days.

All of the other info it gives like my “Health Traits” and my “Disease Risk” are interesting to browse. While they have useful info, such as certain risks, it shouldn’t (and doesn’t) affect my daily life due to the new nature of this field, but it’s nice to know.

Anyone else in either of these haplogroups?

For Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post, he asks:

  1. List your matrilineal line – your mother, her mother, etc. back to the first identifiable mother. Note: this line is how your mitochondrial DNA was passed to you!
  2. Tell us if you have had your mitochondrial DNA tested, and if so, which Haplogroup you are in.
  3. Post your responses on your own blog post.

I’ve already done this since, yes, I have had my mDNA tested. I had it done for the National Geographic’s Genographic Project.

  1. Me, Brian ZALEWSKI
  2. Sharon THIELKE (Living) married John ZALEWSKI
  3. Marjorie DeBROUX (Living)  married LeRoy THIELKE
  4. Mildred Vida VAN PRICE (1903 Mattoon, WI – 1994 Port Washington, WI) married Leon DeBROUX
  5. Minnie M MUHM (1879 Norwood Twsp, WI – 1959 Port Washington, WI) married Pieter Franciscus VAN PARIJS
  6. Ida SCHAVANDIE (1852 Wisconsin or Germany – 1934 Antigo, WI) married Peter MUHM
  7. Anna RASCH (? Germany – ?) married Lawrence SCHAVANDIE

So, Anna RASCH is as far back as I’ve traced so far. When I took the test, I only had up to Ida and not much info about her, so I am making progress. Pieter VAN PARIJS changed his name to Peter VAN PRICE, which is why the name changes during that generation. That caused me some headache until I figured it out.

According to my DNA test, my Mitochondrial line hapolgroup is H. According to the Haplogroup H Wikipedia entry,  it is the most common mtDNA haplogroup in Europe.  About one half of Europeans are of mtDNA haplogroup H. That does back up the German heritage of my line.

As the news mentioned last week, Ancestry has opened it’s DNA area. I’ve been a user on Ancestry for many years and I also have become involved in Genetic Genealogy via the National Geographic study and also Family Tree DNA. So, I was more than happy to test our Ancestry’s system.

It was easy to transfer my data over from FTDNA to Ancestry. Currently, they can only transfer from FTDNA or National Geographic, though I imagine if you have your data handy you can convert it yourself. You just need to bring up your DNA data and type in the values into Ancestry from one of these two companies.

It took a few minutes after I entered it for it to find some matches, though unfortunately there are none before 26 generations out. They show you your matches in a nice graphical format including a map. They also give you an estimate of the number of years, along with generations, that this person and you may have a common ancestor.

If you have an Ancestry.com account and also have received your DNA info, I would recommend trying this out. Any and all data can help everyone!

Link: Ancestry DNA