Cyndi’s List Celebrates 20 Years! Congratulations!

cyndislistCongratulations!! Cyndi’s List, the most comprehensive list of family history resources on the internet, turns 20 years old today! 20 amazing years of FREE help for genealogists.

According to the Cyndi’s List About page, the website started on March 4, 1996:

The list began as a one page set of bookmarks that I shared with my fellow genealogical society members at the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society. After that I expanded it to be a 6-page article for the society quarterly. On March 4, 1996 I published my personal web site and, as sort of an after-thought, I added my “list” of bookmarks. The original list was contained on one categorized web page with more than 1,025 links.

In addition to websites and resources in every conceivable subject area, Cyndi’s List has a very healthy list of “DNA, Genetics & Family Health” links.

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Visualizing Distributions for the Shared cM Project

[EDIT – June 26, 2016: Updated and detailed histograms are now available and should be utilized. See: “Update to the Shared cM Project.“]

Many people have benefited from the more than 6,000 submissions to the Shared cM Project, an incredible crowdsharing project (which is still collecting data HERE!).

One issue with the Shared cM Project, however, is that it is user-submitted data, meaning there are invariably two inherent problems that will affect that data: (1) data entry errors; and (2) relationships that are not accurate.

It is actually a very simple matter to resolve both of these issues, and that is to provide the distributions for the data. The distributions will show clearly where the outliers (the errors and the incorrect relationships) reside. To generate distributions, I enlisted the help of mathematician Ingrid Baade, who volunteered all of her time. I am forever in her debt for this contribution!

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Genetic Genealogy Christmas Sale Flyer From 2020!


I just received the following advertisement from my time traveling fax machine (a Christmas gift from a friend):


The Comprehensive Genetic Genealogy Testing Package®!

Syracuse, New York – December 1, 2020 – Announcing the new Comprehensive Genetic Genealogy Testing Package®, the most extensive genetic genealogy test ever available! For just $299.00 (plus S&H), you will receive insightful information about all aspects of your ancestry, including your ethnicity and numerous genetic cousins, among other incredible information. After sending in just a few swabs (cheek, gut, and face), you will receive your results in 4-6 weeks.

As part of the Comprehensive Genetic Genealogy Testing Package®, you will receive results from each of the following individual tests:

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Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research – “Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists”

Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research

Are you familiar with the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research? The Virtual Institute is online platform offering a wide variety of courses by well-known instructors. Each 6-hour course is presented over the course of two consecutive Saturdays. The course is recorded and all participants receive a copy of the recording! Live attendees have the benefit of Q&A periods in each session.

Earlier this year I presented “(Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA” through the Virtual Institute, and the course was very well received (see some example reviews here and here).

Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists

This November 7th and 14th (or at your convenience if you’re listening to the recordings), I will be teaching my second course through the Virtual Institute, entitled “Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists.” The course is designed for anyone interested in genetic genealogy, but especially for genealogists that help others understand DNA test results whether as a paid professional or simply as a knowledgeable friend.

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The Search For Helen’s Roots – Part II

In the last post (“The Search for Helen’s Roots“) we learned that my adopted great-grandmother, Helen Johnson, has a cluster of shared close autosomal DNA matches in the 3rd and 4th cousin range. These matches are all genealogically members of a Snell family which lived in the same small county in Upstate New York where my great-grandmother was born.

We also learned that my grandmother married Walter A. Snell, who also appears to be a member of the same Snell family.

Did Helen knowingly marry someone who was her cousin or possibly her half-brother? Did she always know who she was biologically?

Is My Surname Actually SNELL?

On February 17, 1932, Helen’s first husband Frank Bettinger passed away unexpectedly at the age of 59:

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The Search For Helen’s Roots

My great-grandmother, Helen Johnson, was adopted.Copyright Blaine T. Bettinger

She was born on March 2, 1889 in Mexico, Oswego County, New York, the unnamed daughter of a “Minerva D. Johnson” (age 20 and born in nearby New Haven, Oswego County, NY) and an unknown father. (New York State Department of Health, birth certificate 8040 (1889), no name; Office of Vital Statistics, Albany).

She died at the age of 93 in 1983 in Watertown, New York. Visiting the elderly Helen (by then known as Marley) is one of my earliest childhood memories.

In an attempt to find Helen’s ancestors, I’m using DNA that I graciously obtained from four of Helen’s grandchildren (my father, two of his sisters, and their first cousin). Last week, I uncovered some possible clues that have raised more questions than I could have ever thought possible. And when DNA is involved, that’s really saying something!

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AncestryDNA Announces New IN COMMON WITH Tool

With genetic genealogy the name of the game is collaboration, whether it is collaboration with other people or collaboration among the trees and records of our genealogical and genetic matches. Only when we collaborate can we generate the clues and information necessary to break through walls and recover the names of those missing ancestors.

We have multiple tools for collaboration of genetic matches. At GEDmatch and DNAGedcom, for example, we have many third-party tools that assist our efforts. The companies also offer tools that allow us to sift through our matches to find the clues we need. Family Tree DNA, for example, has an In Common With (“ICW”) tool and a Matrix tool that allow users to see what matches they share in common with another person.

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How Much of Your Family Tree Do You Know? And Why Does That Matter?

Today, I saw an interesting table posted to Facebook, summarizing a genealogist’s family tree. It listed a handful of generations along with the number of possible ancestors in each generation, and the individual’s known ancestors for that generation.

Out of curiosity, I generated a similar table with my own data:

Bettinger Genealogy


There are many interesting data points in the table. For instance, between the 7th and 8th generations, I drop from knowing 71% of all of my ancestors to knowing just 51% of my ancestors. At 10 generations, with 2046 total ancestors in all generations, I only know a quarter of them. And while I feel very confident for the first 6 or 7 generations; after that I’m much less confident with my family tree.

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A Review of TribeCode by Centrillion Biosciences

aSN0QmAV_400x400TribeCode ( is a relatively new direct-to-consumer genetic genealogy testing company, officially launching in the fall of 2014. The company is owned by Centrillion Biosciences, headquartered in Palo Alto, California. The TribeCode test, currently offered for $99, offers Y-DNA, mtDNA, and atDNA analysis.

The ISOGG wiki page about TribeCode offers some information about the test, gleaned mostly from Facebook postings by the company. For example, the test apparently uses an Illumina low-coverage sequencing technology and tests at least 12 million markers throughout the genome. More exact details of the sequencing aren’t yet found on the TribeCode website.

Around Thanksgiving of 2014 I ordered the test on sale from approximately $79, and received my results a couple of months later.

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An mtDNA Journey – Discovering My mtDNA in a Research Paper

I’ve always known that I have weird mtDNA. This morning, I learned that it is so weird that it has helped identify a new branch of the mtDNA Haplogroup A family tree.

Haplogroup A

When I first received the results of an mtDNA test ten years ago, I was shocked to learn that my mtDNA belonged to Haplogroup A, one of the well-known Native American haplogroups. I knew that my ancestors on my maternal line were British missionaries to Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras, traceable back to about the 1820’s, and so I was expecting haplgroup H or another traditionally European mtDNA haplogroup.


My mtDNA Line – 5 Generations in Photographs

Not surprisingly, I had no close matches in the Family Tree DNA database. And when I tried to research my haplogroup, I had a handful of control region mutations that no one else in the database or the academic literature seems to have.

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