AncestryDNA’s Genetic Communities are Finally Here!

Today (March 28, 2017), AncestryDNA launches a new tool called “Genetic Communities.” Genetic Communities (GCs) are groups of test-takers who are connected through their DNA because they descend from an identified recent and distinct population of ancestors (somewhere around 1750 to 1850, in my experience).

There is a lot to explore with these GCs, so this will be just an introduction rather than a complete guide.

At 2 PM EST this Thursday I’m doing a webinar for Legacy Family Tree Webinars called “Exploring AncestryDNA’s New Genetic Communities.” You can register at any time. If you’re reading this after March 30, 2017 and you missed the free webinar, you’ll be able to watch the webinar if you are a Legacy Family Tree member (and you should be!). ... Click to read more!

GUEST POST: The McGuire Method – Simplified Visual DNA Comparisons

EDITOR: Last summer while co-teaching a DNA course at IGHR, one of the students in the class had some questions about a mystery she was trying to solve in her own family. While discussing the brick wall, Lauren McGuire showed me a chart she had created with all the test-takers and their relationships to each other. Unlike most other methods of displaying names, relationships, and shared DNA, this chart was incredibly efficient and easy to understand. All the information was right there! It was dubbed “The McGuire Method” by the class, and it remains my favorite way to display shared cM data among a group of individuals.

For example, this method would have been perfect for displaying all the information in “A DNA Case Study: Revealing a Misattributed Parentage Event with DNA,” but I wanted Lauren to announce her method first. It would be an interesting exercise to go back, now, and re-plot that graph using the McGuire Method. ... Click to read more!

A DNA Case Study: Revealing a Misattributed Parentage Event with DNA

As DNA testing for genealogy becomes increasingly popular, more individuals are using the tool to examine and confirm their family trees. However, as more people are tested and comparing DNA to their paper trail, more people are discovering that their genetic ancestry is not what they expected it to be.

The Genetic Genealogy Standards were created to help educate people about the possible outcomes and limitations of genetic genealogy testing. One of the possible outcomes is misattributed parentage, or the discovery that a supposed genealogical ancestor is not in one’s genetic line. Many correctly point out that a misattributed ancestor is still be a social ancestor firmly rooted in one’s social tree, although it is potentially important to know when an ancestor is not one’s genetic ancestor. ... Click to read more!

Can a Genealogist Refuse to Use DNA Evidence?

The answer is, of course, yes. A genealogist can refuse to use any evidence they don’t want to use. There is no Evidence Police. The real question, therefore, is whether the research from a genealogist refusing to use DNA evidence can be considered complete and reliable IF AND ONLY IF that DNA evidence: (1) would have shed light on the question (to either support or refute the hypothesis); AND (2) could have been obtained.

The GPS and DNA Evidence

DNA evidence has been available to genealogists since 2000, although it has only reached what one might call a “critical mass” of awareness within the genealogical community in the past 5-10 years. As a result of the proliferation of DNA testing, a spotlight is currently aimed at DNA evidence, including when it should be used and how it should be used. ... Click to read more!

Are You Doing Everything to Identify Your Matches?

We all know that it can be frustrating trying to identify who a genetic match is and how they are related to us. Today we’ll look at some of the ways we can learn more about matches using the limited information we are given.

But this post has a two-fold purpose. The first purpose is to help people identify their AncestryDNA matches even if the match has no tree, has a private tree, has a meagre tree, and/or is not communicating. Keep in mind, some people have very good reasons for not having a public tree (they don’t have one, there’s a bad history, and so on), so this post is not at all about chastising people who don’t have a tree.

The second purpose, which is perhaps even more important, is to help test-takers who want privacy understand the ways in which people can use information to identify them. EVERY test-taker has a right to make their information as private as possible; but you must also understand that DNA is inherently identifiable. The purpose of genetic genealogy is identification. The only way to maintain 100% DNA privacy is to not take a DNA test. Period. The next best way to maintain some level of DNA privacy is to make your information as private as possible, as we will see below. ... Click to read more!

Analyzing a Lack of Sharing in 2C1R Relationship

To date, there has never been a confirmed case of second cousins (2C) or closer that don’t share DNA. There have been a few rumblings here and there, but nothing proven. See “Second Cousins (Or Closer) That Don’t Share DNA?” for more details.

But what about second cousins once removed (2C1R)? That’s only a single meiosis away from a 2C relationship. Is it possible to not share DNA at that distance? If I don’t share DNA with my 2C1R, should I suspect a misattributed parentage event, or is that normal? Is there anything I can do to give myself some peace of mind?

According to data from the 2016 update to the Shared cM Project, several submissions to the project reported no shared DNA between 2C1R. The histogram shows the distribution, and how often 0 cM shared is for that relationship: ... Click to read more!

Winner of The Genetic Genealogist 10th Anniversary Sweepstakes!

As you may recall, February 12, 2017 was the 10th Anniversary of the launch of The Genetic Genealogist. To celebrate, I conducted a sweepstakes to give away the very first signed copies of my books, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy and Genetic Genealogy in Practice (with Debbie Parker Wayne) – see “The Genetic Genealogist Celebrates 10 Years of DNA!”

There were hundreds of entries in the contest, and a winner was selected by Wishpond (the plugin I used) at random. I will contact them tonight, and if the person agrees to have his/her name made available here, I will update the post. Thank you so much to everyone that entered, and an even bigger THANK YOU for 10 great years!

EDIT: Congrats to Natalie McLain of Houston, Texas! ... Click to read more!

Join me in Alaska on the Annual Heritage Books Genealogy Conference and Cruise (Special Offer)!

Are you interested in genealogy? Are you interested in DNA? Are you interested in Alaska?

You didn’t really say “no” to any of those, did you??

Heritage Books, a leader in the world of genealogy publication for four decades, is again hosting the Annual Heritage Books Genealogy Conference and Cruise! This year’s cruise on Princess Cruise Lines is in Alaska! The cruise departs from Seattle, Washington on September 17, 2017 and arrives back one week later on September 24, 2017.

And just look at this itinerary!

  • Day 1 – Sep 17, 2017 (Sunday) – Seattle — Departs at 4:00 PM (First one-on-one session)
  • Day 2 – At Sea — Genealogy Sessions (Sessions 1-6)
  • Day 3 – Ketchikan, Alaska — Arrives at 6:30 AM and departs 3:00 PM (Second one-on-one session)
  • Day 4 – Juneau, Alaska — Arrives at 12:30 PM and departs 10:00 PM (Sessions 7-8)
  • Day 5 – Skagway, Alaska — Arrives at 6:00 AM and departs at 5:00 PM (Third one-on-one session)
  • Day 6 – At Sea — Genealogy Sessions (Sessions 9-14)
  • Day 7 – Victoria, British Columbia — Arrives at 7:00 PM and departs 11:59 PM (Sessions 15-20)
  • Day 8 – Sep 24, 2017 (Sunday) – Seattle, Washington — Arrives at 7:00 AM

Great Speakers

This year’s cruise has a terrific line-up of speakers, one I am incredibly honored to join.

  • Debra Mieszala, CG – Debbie is a BCG trustee who specializes in forensic genealogy, 20th-century research, and the Midwest. She conducts genealogical research for the military to locate relatives of service members missing in past wars.
  • Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA – Pam is a coordinator and teacher at SLIG, IGHR, GRIP, and Boston University’s genealogy certificate program; former NGS director of education and publications; and former board member, NGS and FGS.​
  • Rick Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA – Rick is a course coordinator and instructor for IGHR, SLIG, and GRIP. Areas of interest include, urban research, maps, government records, law, land, military, and technology.
  • Craig R. Scott, MA, CG, FUGA – Craig is the author of The ‘Lost Pensions’: Settled Accounts of the Act of 6 April 1838 (Revised) and Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, Inventory 14 (Revised). He has authored seventeen books and several articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly Family Chronicle, and other genealogical publications. He is the President and CEO of Heritage Books, Inc., a genealogical publishing firm with over 5,300 titles in print.
  • Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D. – I’m an intellectual property attorney by day and a DNA specialist by night. I’m the author of the long-running blog The Genetic Genealogist, and I frequently give presentations and webinars to educate others about the use of DNA to explore their ancestry.

A Special Offer – Book Now Through February 28th, 2017!

I really want you to join me on this cruise; the more the merrier! From today through February 28th, 2017 only, if you sign up for the cruise and send me proof of your booking (also dated between today and February 28th), I will send you a FREE and SIGNED copy of The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy! ... Click to read more!

Do NOT Miss the NERGC Conference in Springfield in April!

Are you attending NERGC in Springfield, MA this April 26-29th?

The New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) is one of the largest – if not THE largest – genealogical conference in the Northeast. NERGC is only held every other year, so you don’t want to miss this!

Genealogical conferences are an absolute essential for genealogists at every level, from newbie to experienced to professional. With so many educational opportunities, conferences push your knowledge and help you find records you may never have considered looking for.

Just as important as the education, meeting new people or seeing old friends is so much fun. There is NOTHING like spending a few days with people who share your passion!

NERGC 2013 was a great event; I presented several DNA lectures, and had between 35 to 100 attendees in each lecture. They were terrific audiences! ... Click to read more!

Preliminary Results from The X-DNA Inheritance Project

About a month ago I created The X-DNA Inheritance Project to study recombination of the X chromosome. To do this, I requested grandparent/grandchild GEDmatch Kit Numbers submitted via a portal (

I’ve received numerous submissions, but I would love to have many more. The preliminary data in this graph is based on 150 submissions (thus analyzing 150 meioses), but I’d like to get the number up to 500 to have more confidence in the data (even though 150 took hours!).

A huge THANK YOU to everyone that has submitted!