Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Genetic Genealogy Made Easy" - Webinar Report

This evening I sat in on an webinar titled "Genetic Genealogy Made Easy". The webinar was hosted's Darlene Odenwalder - DNA Project Coordinator, Wendy Jessen - Director of Product Marketing - and moderator for the event, and Elise Allen - Content Writer.

Elise Allen - Content Writer

Wendy Jessen - Director of Product Marketing

Darlene Odenwalder - DNA Project Coordinator

The webinar was recorded and will be available soon on for watching. Watch for posts letting you know of this!

Wendy went straight to the point: "DNA testing for genealogy works".
The goals of this webinar were:
* to make DNA testing easy to understand and how to apply your test reults to grow your tree.
* Ancestry DNA testing can continue to pay off for years
* women can benefit from paternal testing
* how to use DNA features: groups, transfer to tree and ancient ancestry

DNA lets us know who we are, or are not, related to. The individual must realize however that DNA testing for genealogy is NOT CSI! It will NOT tell you who your father is! It does not determine your ethinicity!

Elise pointed out that "genes" are passed down from parent to child. They are the blueprints to help us develop, grow, and to even stay alive every day!

Genes are found on DNA. The double helix is the molecular structure that holds this all together. We have about 20,000 genes on the double helix. These determine things like the shape of our nose, the color of our eyes, the color of our hair, etc.

Cells give morphology and character to the body and are smaller than DNA. Yet each cell has entire copy of ALL of our DNA. A complete copy of every 20,000 genes is stored within a single cell. Yet each cell is job specific!

While the webinar used a video of Chris Haley, "Roots" author Alex Haley's nephew, performing a cheek swab, I could not locate that video for a link, so instead, click here to watch a very amusing video of the process!

Sex chromosomes are different for males and females. Males have the chromosomes "XY", while females have the chromosomes "XX". There are 23 pairs of chromosomes for each individual. Chromosomes are found in the nucleus of every cell in the body!

Chromosomes determine gender. The also contain something referred to as "junk DNA". This "junk DNA" probably plays a structional role - but it DOES tell us how we're related to others. The test offered looks at a small amount of Y chromosome DNA from a male who swabs his cheek.

The lab testing looks at only specific areas of the DNA. As stated earlier in this post, it cannot determine ethinicity nor determine paternity.

Privacy is maintained by the lab at all times! When a test arrives it has a computer generated ID number [bar code] assigned to it. The name of the donor is at no time on the test sample as it is being tested! Just the bar code. WHen the testing is completed, the computer matches the ID number with the client name and the results are then forwarded back to the client [you].

Sorenson Labs, a lab well-known for it's quality and accreditation supplies all of the services for this testing.

DNA testing determine your "haplogroup", this in turn determines where your ancestor MAY have migrated from. This is NOT exact, but it is determined by "probability".

An in-depth report is given regarding possible migratory patterns of your haplogroup.
Your genetic makeup is determined in "markers", and a number is assigned to each marker.

There are some events that may cause differences in "known" relatives when tested. The scientific community calls these "non-paternal events". Old-timers used to call these the "milkman's baby", the "mailman's baby". A quaint old saying was repeated during the webinar: "Mama's baby - Daddy's maybe" [I hadn't heard that one in a long while!] will notify you of any matches they locate with your tests. You may then contact your match[es] without sharing your personal information or email by using their "Connection Service", which will send an email on your behalf to the the known match. You may then get together and share your connection at both parties discretion.

Women cannot take the Y-DNA test. This test is only for STRAIGHT PATERNAL LINES - or can only be performed by a male direct descendant of the ancestral line you are researching. For instance, I wanted to find out about my great-great-grandfather's ancestry. In order to do so, I, as a female, could not take the test. Instead, I had to use my Dad, or an uncle, or a male cousin from this line. If you are female your son cannot take the test for your ancestral line. His paternal line comes from his father.

You may wish to purchase a test for someone else to use, but you wish to follow the results. You may do so by assigning participants to the test.

What's the payoff for using a DNA test? MAKING A CONNECTION! But a true connection is a marriage of DNA and paper genealogy that will show actual relationships.

Once you have your test results, you can even attach them to your family tree!

Only females pass on the mtDNA. She will pass this on to both her male and female offspring. However, only the female will then pass it on to the next generation. Therefore, an mtDNA test may only be performed on a straight maternal line. From mother to daughter, on the ancestral line you are researching. This test is performed exactly the same as the Y-DNA test with a cheek swab.

The haplogroup in this testing is the major result of this test. You will want to match someone else with no differences in the marker, which is quite different from the Y-DNA test. [The Y test allows for variants in the markers, and can determine with great proximity the number of generations back that the two will have merged.] The mtDNA test has limitations! Matches for the test may be from as few as 5 generations back, orup to 1,000 years back! There is no way to determine how many! So it is certainly not as concise as the Y-DNA. The mtDNA is used more for weeding people out of your possibilitiies rather than adding them to it!

Once your test results are in [in about 4 weeks] join a group or start your own! There you can share pictures or other info regarding your research.

Ancestry offers the Y-DNA [Y33] for $79 or $149 [the Y46]. The latter of which is much more concise. These two tests will help you find genetic cousins. They will disprove or prove a line in your tree. And they can help you determine you ancient ancestry [haplogroup type].

My single most question was answered in the brief question and answer period following the webinar:
Can I import my test results from another company to the's database and look for matches?
The answer was yes! Just go to the DNA homepage and look for the link at the bottom to transfer test results from another company.

This single hour webinar was most fruitful for the beginner at genealogy DNA or for the intermediate. I highly recommend my readers to watch for the recording of this event to be released for public watching!

1 comment:

Megan said...

The video of Chris Haley taking his DNA test is here: