Category Archives: DNA

fun genealogically speaking

Here is a simple diagram with a simple challenge.  First fill in names of people that are related in parent/child relationships.  For example, put you at the bottom and fill in your parents and grandparents. The challenge then => add some other information.

  • For example, put in everyone’s birth date and birth place.
  • Or, place of birth and place of death.
  • Or, inheritable illness’s they had and cause of death.
  • Or, religion, politics and socioeconomic status.
  • Or, height and weight at mid-life.
  • Or, haplogroups, mitochondrial for all and Y-DNA for males.

For example, my wife’s maternal grandfather was described as 5’ 11”, 135 lbs, and swarthy with grey hair at 69 years of age in his Petition for Naturalization. We know his religion but have no idea where he stood politically.  

But I am really puzzled over his haplogroups.   A haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on either their paternal or maternal line. Particular haplogroups are associated with well-known ancestral groups such as the Vikings, Aboriginal Australians, and the Celts. We know he was born on an island in Croatia, we know the mitochondrial  haplogroup of his wife.  My wife knew him until she was about 12.  But there aren’t enough descendants testing at 23andMe to figure out his ancestral group!

This chart can be a challenge to any genealogist, amateur or otherwise.  Take a copy and give it a go. Below is a chart for a female with haplogroups.  I cannot figure out the mitochondrial groups for 2 of the men, but I am still working 😊

Haplogroup teasers

According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, a haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on either their paternal (Y-DNA) or maternal (mitochondrial) lines.

Not every DNA testing companies show us our haplogroups. AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, and FamilyTreeDNA kits do not test for the specific SNPs required to determine haplogroup, while 23andMe and Living DNA do test segments of the mtDNA and Y-chromosome and display our haplogroups and, most importantly, those of our shared matches.

FTDNA also includes Y haplogroup and mtDNA haplogroup information, only if you buy specific tests related to those traits. Gedmatch displays haplogroup info that is self-reported.

I have found the haplogroup information displayed automatically at 23andMe to be invaluable in some of my research.  In a future DNA Discussion meeting, I will give a show-n-tell of how this additional information helped unlock puzzles in our family trees.

Meanwhile, when searching the internet for haplogroup information, I found this page which has lots of comparative details about the various DNA testing companies.  Eupedia is a great sight for exploring.  And this page in particular should interest most everyone who has read this far!  Do page through it.

https://www.eupedia.com/genetics/which_ancestry_dna_test_to_choose.shtml


My Y-DNA haplogroup is I1a-​A13294 and my mitochondrial haplogroup is ​H1e1a.


23andMe Tree Recalculation

Go ahead, drag the above slider left and right!

I have mentioned in the past about recalculating my tree in 23AndMe.  I said you had to find out how to do it within the Help system.  Arghh, finding where the function is located is a royal pain! But I did find it, and wrote the attached PDF document. If you are interested, you can download it. This is only for advanced folks. This worked for me, but let the buyer beware.


“If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent.” – Alan Turing

Create Simple Block Charts

At the DNA Discussions group today, Gail Burk showed us a slick block chart of a portion of her family tree. When we discovered that the software used to create it was free, we all wanted to find out how! I promised to post the answer here in this site. Here is the information:

CLICK HERE to see the Rootstech video by Nicole Dyer titled “Organize your Dna Matches in a Diagram” to see how to create block charts of excerpts from your family tree. This video is aimed at documenting DNA in your family lines, but it can be used to display any block charts. It is using the free system at www.diagrams.net.

(This reminds me of Visio!) Excellent. Thanks for the hint, Gail.


Using our tools

MoCoGenSo’s DNA Discussion Group will be meeting Wednesday with an open forum. Join us via Zoom. Feel free to drop in for conversation and stay for lunch.

They say that the pandemic has given lots of folks extra time these days to work on their genealogy. Perhaps, but there is still never enough time.

The wife and I have done our DNA tests at the “big 4” of course, and every so often I make the rounds looking for new matches. Never underestimate that auto-tree at 23andMe.com – it can be full of surprises. Once built, the tree remains static. But you can and should refresh the tree periodically. It is a pain to figure out how to refresh it, but it can be done via the help system.

We discovered a new branch of 4 cousins in my wife’s refreshed tree the other day that contained people we had never heard of before and the branch was placed in an impossible position. After a couple of weeks of sleuthing, we have decided that the stories about her grandfather’s escapades were true! How else can you have a half first cousin show up out of nowhere!

23andMe.com provides lots of information about DNA matches that are really useful in solving puzzles. Birth year, haplogroups, shared matches, triangulation, etc. Add a subscription to Ancestry.com to the mix for source searching and you can solve lots of thorny NPEs. Ancestry.com has tree building and a bigger match base, but 23andMe.com provides so many more DNA tools. You really need to test at both places.

The centimorgans Tool at DNA Painter is invaluable at justifying tree placement. In addition, Genetic Affairs can create an extremely useful cluster analysis from 23andMe data. I ran their Auto Cluster tool on the wife’s 23andme Me data and am still finding new information.

The MoCoGenSo DNA Discussion meetings are a better place to talk about this stuff. I hate typing…. Perhaps I can show-n-tell this case at some future meeting. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to learning about Gail Burk’s methods used at tomorrow’s meeting. See you tomorrow noon on Zoom.

DNA Discussions Wednesday Noon: Zoom Link

Meeting ID: 897 1823 5118
Passcode: 738495



DNA Discussions – zoom at noon on Wednesday – August 4th

MoCoGenSo’s DNA Discussion Group will be meeting Wednesday with an open forum. Join us via Zoom. Feel free to drop in for conversation and stay for lunch.

Check out this great page full of information for newcomers to genetic genealogy isogg.org/wiki/Wiki_Welcome_Page

This meeting we will have a special presentation by Gail Burk about her search for ancestors. See description below.

Click to Join Meeting: Zoom Link

Meeting ID: 897 1823 5118
Passcode: 738495


For more than 40 years, Gail has been trying to find the parents of her second great-grandfather, the elusive James Foster Waterbury. She has finally made a bit of recent progress in cracking this brick wall through the slow amalgamation of clues gleaned from many diverse sources. Gail uses a multi-faceted approach that combines traditional genealogical research with DNA analysis. This presentation outlines some of the strategies she has employed in the process of working on her Waterburys, and will focus on the many tools available at Ancestry.com.

Gail Burk is a long-time member of the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County, where she has served in a number of Board positions, including President. Gail graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in art, and minored in history. She has been an active genealogist since 1977. For many years, Gail also participated in a weekly writing group and a monthly sketching group. During the pandemic, she has devoted much time and effort in attempting to break down some of her genealogical brick walls. As Gail’s granddaughter says, Gail has become very “sleuthy.”


”Maybe if we tell people the brain is an app, they will start using it.” – Morgan Freeman


Kathy Nielsen Presents….DNA: The Key to Uncovering Your Family History

Register now for the program in August, a reminder will be sent!

On Zoom….August 12, 2021 4:00, Hosted by the Monterey Public Library

DNA has had a major impact on the traditional study of genealogy and on law enforcement. Adoptees employ DNA to locate their birth families and law enforcement agencies use DNA to identify potential suspects. Join us as we explore what DNA might reveal about our own ancestors and living relatives. We will examine test options, identify DNA companies, interpret results, discuss how to connect with “cousins,” and touch on the future of this fascinating science. 

Kathy Nielsen: Kathy Nielsen is a reference librarian and an educator. She is currently a popular genealogy speaker on the Monterey Peninsula. She has been featured on Lisa Louise Cooke’s weekly YouTube program, Elevenses. She is a co-founder of the Monterey County Genealogy Society’s special interest writing group, Off the Charts. Kathy incorporates her skills as a historian, storyteller, and librarian in her search for her family’s history.

This program takes place on Zoom, or participants may join by phone. Registration closes an hour before the program. The Zoom access information will be sent to registered participants shortly before the program begins. 

Program Registration.  Check out the EVENTS Page at the Monterey Public Library.  https://montereypl.libcal.com/event/7789709

SNP Tracker

I’m a member of a Y-DNA messaging group at the GROUPS.IO system powered by Google called Y-DNA-HAPLOGROUP-I .  It is usually a quiet group, most folks are old timer types who have long ago figured out where they came from.  (grin)  Once in a while a newcomer asks questions and someone always helps out.  (most haplogroup I folks are helpful, after all)

Today someone answered  a question from a searcher by recommending a website I had never seen before.  It is really quite slick, a tool that shows how your SNP traveled across the world, similar to the paths that the old Genographic site first implemented.  But this site show not only the path travelled by our SNP ancestors, but it includes a timeline.  There is an animated slider that shows anthropological time periods too.

Click here to try this SNP Tracker

This site does both Y-DNA and Mitochondrial DNA SNPs. Use your “terminal” SNP. Be sure to work thru the tabs at the top to see what is available.  If you know your haplogroup, give it a go…  Remember, you still have time before Rootstech starts!


“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vidal Sassoon


Proving family tree with DNA

Recently I decided to try and see if I could “prove” parts of my family tree by finding DNA cousins who linked to my paternal line via Y-DNA and my maternal line via Mitochondrial DNA. I figured it would be easy.

My AncestryDNA account has the most matches, so I decided to start there. I was in for a surprise! It isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Y-DNA is passed only from father to son. Using Thrulines in Ancestry, I went back to my 2nd great grandfather Andrew Robeson and began to look for matches that were male to male all the way to now. I found only one line out of 12 that was fully male from Andrew, but even it ended in a female 3C1R cousin. So I sent her an email asking if she had brothers who had done DNA test who knew their Y haplogroup. Well, she did have a brother who even had a son, but she didn’t know if he had done DNA. She would ask… arghh

The Mitochondrial side was even more frustrating. I did find a 2C2R cousin who is female and descended female to female from my great grandmother. Hooray, I thought, she is a true Irish Mito person! I sent her an email, but she is one of these non-responders. Patience is required. Yes, she is the only one out of 25.

I turned to MyHeritage. The Theory of Family Relativity is useful when checking individuals, but I don’t see a way to selectively pick those who stem from a specific ancestor.

Some people talk about offering to buy a test for individuals in my tree who fit the requirements. Not me… I figure “crowd sourcing” (lots of autosomal matches) is good enough proof that I descended from Andrew Robeson and/or his wife!  My 2 Big-Y test cousins and I come from Scotland in the 1600s.  Of course, 3 different surnames are involved!  So who knows who came first: Robeson, Grierson or Marshall. 🙂

If you have success stories along these lines, come tell us at the DNA Discussion group on first-Wednesdays at noon. Look for Zoom details soon.


” Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison


Unusual DNA Collection Methods

Just to be clear, we will be having a meeting of our DNA Discussion group this week, even though the main General meeting was cancelled. You can join us at Noon on Wednesday via Zoom, connection details will be provided Tuesday.

One of the items to be discussed will be extracting DNA from materials besides saliva. Maria Mueller is working with a company called Keepsake DNA to get DNA from an envelope written in 1993 by her father who is now deceased. She has agreed to explain the process and share any reports at our next meeting.

There might be others who would like to know if this will work for them. I know this process sounds interesting to me, especially the cost. We have had a few family members pass on without taking a genetic DNA test. I’ve wondered what options we have.


“People should read every day, because knowledge builds up, like compound interest.” – Warren Buffet