Category Archives: DNA

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.

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


A couple of questions popped up this week. I could guess answers, but I would prefer to tease the group with them and get better answers in the process.

First question:
Two people are DNA matches at Family Tree DNA. Not close cousins, but real matches. They also are experienced users of Family Search and have placed themselves into the “one world” tree. They do not know how they are related. All communication has been by email. They have tried to discover their relationship by using the “View My Relationship” function from within the Person View of various “most recent common ancestors” on both sides. But it never works. Could it work? Should it work? Why won’t it work?

Second question:
Two men are Y-DNA matches on the Big-Y test out at a Genetic Distance of 9 (8 STR differences out of 389) level. In the Yfull tree, they “connect” 950 years ago. But, they do NOT match autosomally. Could they? Should they? Why not?

New question:
Can Family Search be used, generally, to solve these tree building exercises needed to bring DNA matches together? Specifically, can Family Search be used to connect the guys in the 2nd example?  We always use and Thrulines to connect the dots, but if people cooperate, would the “View My Relationship” at Family Search be a better way? Just an idea….

Which comes first?

Folks who read the posts here normally are interested in family research using Genealogy and/or DNA. The question comes up, which to do first? Like the chicken or egg, and the cart or horse? If this were a quantum physics web site, we would say both come first!

Lots of people ask me about taking a DNA test to solve a family mystery. They might be adopted and want to find missing parents. Or they might want to prove some old family lore about being related to Indians. They might just want to be looking for relatives. Perhaps there is no mystery to solve, they are curious.

I know of seven people directly who have taken a DNA test and solved a family mystery, three in our family and four friends. In all successful cases, someone had to do some plain old fashioned genealogy to assist the DNA query. Just taking a DNA test without some family research (aka genealogy) won’t solve any mysteries (unless a parent matches you directly). Quite often, DNA without research creates more mysteries than you started with.

If you are trying to solve a family mystery, by all means, take a DNA test. When asked which comes first, the DNA test or genealogy, I always answer either comes first, but both will be done.

and the next question …. Why do mirrors reflect sideways but not upside down?

New Scandinavian Cooking

When AncestryDNA recently announced that they were updating their ethnicity tables, I got all excited. I really like Scandinavian food, especially their fish n potatoes, and I figured that now, finally, Ancestry would finally prove that I was descended from Vikings! I watch the PBS program New Scandinavian Cooking regularly and have figured that they were all my cousins.

Well, it didn’t turn out that way. Yes, the Scottish and Irish may have descended from the early Danes or Norwegians, but my DNA supposedly doesn’t prove that! Or does it have something to do with the fact that ethnicity data via DNA only reaches back about 500 years or less and my ancestors moved out of the Scandinavian areas before then ?

This new swipe at my ethnicity feels a bit more accurate, but alas, I still don’t feel satisfied. Perhaps I need to try to do percentages from my genealogical tree!

If you did the AncestryDNA test, be sure to check the new ethnicity estimates. You might be a bit surprised!

“It’s important to keep an open mind, in the absence of data.” – Elissa Epel

The AncestryDNA matching updates have been completed.

Darn, I was wrong when I wrote that post inviting us to the DNA Sig meeting: actually HAS competed the changes they promised! It took a woman in London to set me on the correct path. Embarrassing, it is.

CLICK HERE to see the Cruwys news blog by Debbie Kennett where she does a pretty good job talking about the changes.

Hopefully we can have a good discussion tomorrow at the DNA Discussions meeting. I can at least show how I got confused.

Now I have to change the other post to “make it right”!

A new Heatmap for your Y-DNA

If you know your Y-DNA haplogroup, you can go to this new site to get a “heatmap”.  That is, you can see where your Y-DNA is located in the world according to the data in YFULL.  Just enter your haplogroup into the little box on the left and click submit.

The above map is for my personal Y-DNA haplogroup I-A13289. There are only 2 of us in YFULL, and we both trace our paternal selves to Scotland!

Just for fun…