MGS had a winning Spring Workshop.

I attended the Maine Genealogical Society (MGS) DNA Workshop last weekend. I was impressed with the conference organization and agenda.

The logistics were excellent. Registration was easy; the conference program booklet was done well with a few extra blank pages for notes. I don’t know how many people were there, but I’d guess a couple hundred. The venue, The Augusta Elks Club, was adequate for the event, and the food was good. The MGS bookstore people were there. If you have ancestors from Maine, the MGS Bookstore probably has a book or two that can augment your research. Also, the Maine Historical Society had folks there promoting the society.

However, the real reason for my attending was to see Blaine Bettinger (@Blaine_5) speak. I had never seen Blaine before, but I have used several of his genetic genealogy charts for years. Because I have respected his work for several years, I was excited to meet him in person and hear him speak. I was not disappointed. Blaine was energetic all day and kept the audience engaged and interested. As the day progressed on his topics got more and more advanced.

His first topic was “Introduction to DNA for Genealogists” and he explained the types of chromosomes (X, Y, Mitochondrial, and autosomal) and the tests for each of them. He also went through inheritance and what each of the tests might show you.

Mitochondrial DNA
Picture : by Emmanuel Douzery
[CC BY-SA 4.0]via Wikimedia Commons

His second session was “Using mtDNA and Y-DNA to Explore Your Genealogy.” He explained Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), what HVR1 & HVR2 tests are about and what a full genome test is. He also provided information about how mtDNA test results may be used to solve family mysteries. Then he moved on to Y-DNA testing. He described STR (short tandem repeat) testing versus SNP (single nucleotide polymorphisms) testing. I understand the STR explanations fairly well, but I got lost in the SNP stuff, again. I’ve listened to other people speak about SNPs, I didn’t understand them either. One of these days, I’ll get it.

Again, he spoke about using the test results to solve family mysteries. As you may know from reading my blog, in my case, I was able to use Y-DNA results to be certain that “Roberts” surnamed individuals were on my paternal line. See: My Paternal Brick Wall and Finding Family … tools to determine my biological father and half-siblings for details.

After lunch, Blaine continued with “Using Autosomal DNA to Solve Family Mysteries.” Besides the basics of what Autosomal DNA is, he reminded us that we have two family trees. A Genealogical Family Tree and a Genetic Family Tree. The chance of matching a first or second cousin is really high (over 99%), but the chance of matching a fifth cousin might be as low as 10%. That is to say that only one in ten of your fifth cousins may hold a DNA string that you also inherited. That is understandable, on average a 5th cousin would match only 3.32cM or .0488% of a match.
(See for details.)

Blaine Bettinger
Photo used by permission

Blaine’s 4th talk of the day was about “Using Third-Party Tools to Analyze your DNA.” This talk was an intermediate session with a close look at some of GEDMatch’s tools. Besides looking at the various matches available, but also looked at phasing and a tool he runs on everyone he imports into GEDMatch, the “Are Your Parents Related” tool, which answers questions regarding homozygosity that can skew your other results. He also talked about Lazarus and triangulation tools that GEDMatch has.

Although Blaine took questions throughout his presentations regarding issues at that point, he also had a more formal Question and Answers session at the end of the conference using Q&A cards written during the conference.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. I thought Blaine Bettinger was a great speaker. He kept to the topics. His slides were legible and decipherable from across the room. I would go out of my way to attend future conferences where he is a speaker.

To learn more about Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., see his Genetic Genealogist website. His website includes a biography page, a presentations page, and a “Contact Me” page. I’m sure you will enjoy having him as a speaker for your conference and your attendees will learn a lot.

On May 21st, I’ll be going to the “Third Annual Southern Maine Genealogy Conference” sponsored by the Greater Portland Chapter (GPC) of the Maine Genealogical Society. This conference will be in Portland, ME, (much closer to me) and will feature D. Joshua Taylor of Who Do You Think You Are? fame (no known relationship). Another fantastic day of genealogical programming is scheduled. I’m looking forward to listening to him talk. You can register for this conference on the GPC-MGS website.

———- DISCLAIMER ———-

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My genetic genealogy activities – Feb 2015

Photo of "The maze, Longleat safari park near to Horningsham, Wiltshire, Great Britain"  © Copyright Brian Robert Marshall and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License 3.0.
Maze, near to Horningsham, Wiltshire, Great Britain
Photo by Brian Robert Marshall
via Geograph – Creative Commons License 2.0.

At times, I feel like I’m lost in a maze of DNA
possibilities. I start down what looks like it will be a great path only to
find it ends.  As I mentioned before my
Y-DNA tests have resulted in many frustrations. 
Tantalizing close but dead ends everywhere.   I think the biggest issue with the Y-DNA
tests is it seems like no one is doing them any more. Ancestry.Com quit their
Y-DNA testing. I don’t think 23 & Me ever did Y-DNA, which only leaves
Family Tree DNA.  In my case I’ve only
seen one new match with them in the past year and that person was very distant
– 80% likely to have a common ancestor in 8 generations.

I turned to autosomal DNA testing to see if that would
help.  It seems like that is the test
that everyone is doing.  I used FamilyTree DNA for my atDNA testing. What is really cool about their system is if you
can have a parent tested as well as yourself, you can then search “FamilyFinder” for matches that match both of you and for matches that match the child
and not the one parent.  In my case, this
allows for a search for potential matches to the “baby daddy.” 
Because my Y-DNA testing suggested that I am most likely
descended from a “Roberts” I’ve been looking at possible Roberts connections in
atDNA test results.  Again, a lot of
tantalizing paths, but dead-ends again. 
Then, I found a really cool new match in my atDNA results. Looking
at only my paternal side, the two closest matches to me were matching each
other on the same chromosome in the same segments as me. Wow!
Family Finder result showing same segments on same chromosome of LV, CMA, and myself.

As I understand it, with segments this large matching, they
have to have received the segment from a common ancestor.  I too have to have received the same segment
from the same common ancestor.  That
means if we can figure out exactly who is their common ancestor, that ancestor
has to be common to me. (Please – someone tell me if I have it wrong.)
Anyway, one of the lines is pretty complete. [LV] has the
vast majority of ancestors identified going back 5 or 6 generations.  Sadly, the other individual is new to
genealogy and only six of his 16 2nd great grandparents
identified.  Family Tree DNA suggests
that this individual, I’ll call CMA, is a 2nd to 4th
cousin.  First cousins share
grandparents, and 2nd cousins share great grandparents.  I decided to create a new working tree and
called it atDNA tree.  I added CMA to
that notional tree and added his known ancestors. He has six of his eight great
grandparents identified, so I decided to determine that ancestor for him.
It took a while but I discovered his grandmother was the
child of a second marriage of his great grandmother.  I found her first name, Mary, and the surname
of her first husband quickly, but his first name and, more importantly, her
maiden name eluded me. 
I found the complete family in a census record that provided
names and birth years for the children of that first marriage.  I then traced those children and discovered
one of them died in 1937 and a copy of his death certificate was available on
line.  That death certificate identified
both his father’s first name and his mother’s surname.  Voilà – I now have the names for seven of CMA’s
eight great grandparent’s.  I checked LV’s
tree, nope, not a surname match.
RAF Tilstock Inside the Maze 2 by Broomhalla - Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.
RAF Tilstock – Inside the Maze 2 by Broomhalla
Courtesy: Deviant Art
For the eighth one, CMA has a first name, just not a
surname. So, that will be my next task. 
If I can identify the eighth person, his great grandmother Catherine, is
not related to LV, then I’ll know that none of us are second cousins and I continue
with second great grandparents to determine if we are third cousins.  
My “brick wall” of learning the identity of my biological
father now has a new entrance into it.  It may be the entrance into a new maze, but it
is an entrance.  Entering the maze is
part of the fun of genealogy.   Wish me
luck and hope I don’t get lost. 

————- DISCLAIMER ————-

My DNA Status – March 2014

Where I am at on my DNA Projects?



I began my DNA based research with Ancestry.Com’s Y-DNA.  Initially, I was disappointed because the closest match to me was one where our Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) was ten generations away.  He had his tree going back seven generations, not quite enough.  Sigh.  
My Y-DNA Lineage from Ancestry.Com
After several months another person matched with me.  This time our MRCA was supposedly only three generations away.  Very cool.  This was a line I could possibly follow.  I figured, If I could follow his tree up the seven generations that he had and then followed all of the male descendants down, I might find one that was in the right place at the right time to be my paternal father.  I’ve gone up four or five generations and followed all of the male descendants; I still haven’t figured a potential candidate. That is to say no one at the right place at the right time.

Then I was talking to a friend is is extremely knowledgable about DNA testing and results. He was telling me that the person I was looking at might be much further away.  He and I matched 30 of 30 overlapping markers. I had taken a Y-46 marker test and he had taken a Y-33 marker test.  My friend indicated he has seen many cases where 30-40 markers were matched up fine but when the test was expanded to more markers the matches fell apart and the MRCA jumped much higher.  I will need to see if my close match there will take an expanded test (even if I pay for it).

My Wife’s Y-DNA – Ancestry

My wife’s brother’s ancestry per Y-DNA from Amazon.Com 
Of course my wife couldn’t supply a Y-DNA sample. So far, we have had one of our biggest brick walls on her paternal side.  I had really hoped that DNA could open a gap.  We asked one of her her brothers to help and he supplied the sample.  Of course, we had to explain our actions and desires several times to my wife’s mother who thought we were in some way suggesting she had slept with the milkman or some such thing. On my brother-in-law’s test we had an immediate hit on Ancestry.  All the markers but one matched and Ancestry suggested a MRCA at six generations.

We only have four generations on my wife’s paternal line.  The potential matching cousin has seven generations identified on his paternal side. So, if we can’t trace up to his tree, possibly we can trace down from his tree to a common ancestor.  I have a lot of work to do to do that tracing and see if I can trace from his top person back down to find my wife’s ancestor.

Family Tree DNA

My haplogroup’s migration from Family Tree DNA

I used my Ancestry Y-DNA test results and purchased a transfer kit from to transfer my results to their system. 

I emailed the closest hit to my DNA (89% likelihood a common ancestor in 8 generations).  No answer.  I emailed him again, no answer. Then I did some on-line research on him, it appears that he died.  I found someone who appeared to be his sister and emailed her.  No response.  Again frustration.  My second closest hit was to the same person that I had matched before on Ancestry ten generations from a MRCA (88.85% for a match in 8 generations in the My Family Tree DNA parlance.)
I have not had any new matches or other contacts on my Y-DNA.  It seems like no one is doing the Y-DNA test any longer, or at least it appears to have dropped significantly in favor of autosomal DNA testing.

My Autosomal Results


I was part of the Beta testing for Ancestry.Com’s autosomal testing. The “ethnicity estimate” didn’t have any surprises.  I’ve received quite a few “matches” on Ancestry, but they don’t tell you how or where the match occurred.  All my matches there have been “possible range 4th to 6th cousins and nothing of significance has been found there.

23 & Me


I was attending a Genealogy Special Interest Group meeting of the Genealogy Society of Cobb County Georgia and was talking with the resident DNA Expert.  He suggested that I do autosomal testing of both myself and my mother, who is still living.  I thought to myself, “Duh” or maybe I actually used my out loud voice.  In any event, have both myself and my mother’s DNA in the same system would conclusively prove a connection went through her or through my unknown father.  If a person matches on me and my mother, the linkage must be through her.  If a person matches on me and NOT my mother, the connection must be through my unknown father.  

My Ancestry Composition per 23 and Me

I decided to go with 23 & Me because they provided the best price.  They were actually low enough in price that I could get the testing there and transfer the results to Family Tree DNA as a lower price than testing only Family Tree DNA.  (That isn’t the case currently.)  Besides, with 23 & Me I would receive health risks results. (That isn’t the case currently either because the government thinks that telling people about possible risks is somehow practicing medicine.  New customers will need to wait until 23 & Me’s appeal makes it through the court system.) 

The results were amazing.  Immediately, I connected with someone that matched with both my mother and me.  Because of that connection I was able to sort out some problems I had tracing my 2nd great grandmother (my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother).  I was also able to push that line back another generation.  I wrote about it at length at
After that initial success frustration again. The next three matches matched against me and not my mother, so I knew they were matches against my unknown father.  I contacted them and no responses.  It is really frustrating when there is no response from people.   


I learned about another service that is free called  It is a very cool site and it is free.  They give instructions on how to export your autosomal DNA test results from Ancestry.Com, Family Tree DNA, and 23&Me and import the results into their system. Their system is agonizingly slow as they take a few weeks to process your data and then eventually it is populated into their system.  As I mentioned, it is free, so you really can’t complain about the speed.  After a few weeks your results become available and they are really nicely portrayed.  You can do one to one matches, one to many matches and actually see which chromosome you match on and how long of a segment matches. It gives you the ability to see exactly what is going on.  Because I’ve uploaded both mine and my mother’s results I can tell easily if a match is on my maternal or paternal side.  I really like the system. Contact with potential cousins is through regular email so it is easy to keep track of correspondence with people on different systems.

More recently I have had several matches with people on my unknown father’s side. The wonderful people have shared their trees with me and I will try bringing their information into my “Notional Tree” as cousins in a potential relationship.  We’ll see what it may find.


I think that in the end, DNA is a helpful tool. It has the potential to break down some brick walls, like it did for my Blackhurst tree.  However, it is not likely to magically solve a problem or give answers to difficult questions.

In my opinion, the best system I’ve used for analysis of autosomal data has been GEDMatch.  I really like what they are doing.  I noticed that today their website is down due to a server failure. That is really sad.  Once their system is back up I will definitely send them a donation to help them keep their system operational.

Because GEDMatch doesn’t test themselves, rather they allow you to upload from many different testing results, it really doesn’t matter which of the many autosomal DNA testing companies you use.  I think that MyFTDNA has been the best for Y-DNA.  

————Disclaimer ————-

Autosomal DNA Test Results

After my success with the Y-DNA test and close match, I thought I’d try out the autosomal DNA (atDNA), test and see what it brings. I was in one of the first Ancestry Beta test groups and was really excited to take the test and see what I might find out.  I received the test in the mail, swabbed my cheek and sent it in.  Then I waited, and waited, and waited.  Oh did I mention that I waited. After and inexorable amount of time, I received a notification that my sample was inconsistent and needed to be taken later.  I had to reapply for a test (no charge) and they sent me a salvia vial. I’ve since learned that they only use the vial any longer for the atDNA test. 
After several weeks I received notification that the test was complete. Sadly nothing of interest.  No surprises in my genetic ethnicity. 
Genetic Ethnicity Summary = 75% British Isles, 13% Central European, 7% Scandinavian, 5% Uncertain.
Well, maybe. There has been a family story that my third great-grandmother was Cherokee Indian. If true that would amount to about 3.1% which could make up some of that uncertainty amount. They mention that as time goes on some of the uncertain identifications may become identifiable.  So maybe, someday I’ll learn if the legend is true.  Better yet, maybe I’ll find someone with a matrilineal ancestry that includes her and can do a Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test. 
There were no individuals identifies as first, second, or third cousins.  Currently there are 61 people with whom I have a 95% or higher likelihood of being a fourth to sixth cousin with. Although I have had a few close matches, one with the same surname (Fannin) in the Carter County, Kentucky I am yet to find any one with a common ancestor. That means we aren’t fourth cousins, maybe fifth or sixth.  I only have my lineage back four generations on that line. None of the other “matches” are even close — disappointing.  Of course, I get excited when I have a match that has a common surname of Roberts.  None of them have an ancestor which has a common match to my  Roberts Notional work.  That is not to say that none of the other testers don’t have a match. I’ve emailed several folks that matched but have a private tree who haven’t responded.  I’ll probably try again soon and see if I can nudge a few responses. 
Generally, I’ve been unimpressed with the Ancestry Autosomal Test results.  The test is a lot of money to learn what I already knew or would have supposed.  My ancestors are mostly from the “British Isles” (I disagree with calling Ireland “British Isles” as would most Irish) and Central European (although I’ve always thought of France and Germany as Western Europe).