Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Which Autosomal DNA Test Should I Take?

My first autosomal DNA Test was with 23andMe in 2015.  Since then I have taken advantage of the free import of 23andMe raw DNA data to MyHeritage, have done a test with AncestryDNA, and most recently have used the FamilyHistoryDNA autosomal transfer program.  So which test would I recommend?  Below are my personal opinions of each testing company, and my recommended testing sequence.
Ancestry DNA
+  The largest autosomal DNA database
+  Identification of others who match you and someone else
-  Does not identify which segments are shared with others, and there are no DNA tools to work with
-  If you do not have a paid subscription to Ancestry, then DNA matching functionality is somewhat limited
+  The second largest autosomal DNA database
+  Identification of Y and Mt-DNA haplogroup (at a broad level)
+  Shows the percentage of DNA shared with others, which segments are shared with others, and has basic tools to work with, including a chromosome viewer (up to 5 people at once)
+  If a parent has also tested, matches can be split between paternal and maternal lines
+  You can update the predicted relationship to the actual known relationship, without a family tree
+  Predicted relationships can be confirmed by linking matching individuals to your family tree
+  Once a few matches from both sides are confirmed, the system predicts paternal and maternal line matches, without having a parent tested (gets better as you confirm more matches)
+  Shows the amount of shared DNA, and allows viewing of the matching segments of up to 5 people
+  Good filtering and sorting of matches
+ A FamilyTreeDNA test sample can also be used for Y and Mt-DNA testing
+  Low cost (US $19.00) transfer of raw autosomal DNA data from Ancestry and 23andMe (cannot be used for subsequent Y or Mt-DNA tests)
-  Third largest autosomal DNA database 
My Heritage DNA
+  Free transfer of raw DNA data (limited time offer) from other testing companies
+  Shows the percentage of shared DNA and the number of shared segments
-  The smallest autosomal database, of the 4 major DNA testing companies (but should increase rapidly if people take advantage of the free transfer from other companies)
-  Does not show which segments are shared with other users
-  If you do not have a paid subscription to MyHeritage, then DNA matching functionality is somewhat limited
If I had the money, I would take every available test with every testing company, to maximise the chance of finding new DNA matches, which help to confirm the researched family tree.  But recognising that very few of us have unlimited funds, I would recommend the following sequence -
  1. Test with either 23andMe or Ancestry (largest databases provide the most exposure)
  2. Upload your raw DNA data to GEDmatch, to utilise their tools and to facilitate matching with users across different testing companies
  3. Purchase the low-cost autosomal DNA transfer to FamilyTreeDNA
  4. Create a family tree on FamilyTreeDNA, either by manual entry or by GEDCOM import from an existing family tree
  5. Take advantage of any other free or low-cost DNA data transfers from other testing companies
  6. Once you are totally hooked on genetic genealogy, take a Y-DNA (paternal line) and / or a Mt-DNA (maternal line) DNA test, to learn about these two lines in more detail
 The number of people taking autosomal DNA tests seems to be growing exponentially, so you can expect more and more DNA matches  as time goes on.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The British Newspaper Archive

This week I signed up to use the British Newspaper Archive, as it is available free at the local library in the city that I am visiting, and I found it to be amazingly useful.
The collection includes national and local newspapers from all over Britain and Ireland, over varying date ranges, and search results can be filtered by region, by date range and by newspaper, to prevent being overwhelmed by irrelevant results.
Even if you are using the database free at a library, you still need to set up an account, but this required minimal information (name and email address), and took only a few minutes.
I learned that my 3G Grandfather, Isaac Hemblin, suffered a broken leg, in an accident in November 1858, which required amputation of the leg.  This accident very likely led directly to his death, which occurred on 3 December 1858.
But the motherlode of information came from 5 separate articles in the Belfast newspapers, regarding an 1854 law suit launched by my 2G Grandfather, James Steele Cosgrave, against the executors of his grandfather's (James Steele) estate, and when he lost the case, his subsequent bankruptcy.  This answered many questions, but also identified a myriad of other family connections that were previously unknown.
I can recommend this valuable resource, based on first-hand knowledge, and I will certainly be doing additional searches, once I have finished processing all of the information obtained so far.

Monday, 20 February 2017

FamilyTreeDNA Autosomal Transfers

The most exciting item to hit my genealogical inbox this week, was the news that FamilyTreeDNA is now accepting the transfer of autosomal DNA tests into their Family Finder database, from Ancestry and 23andMe, for only US $19.00.
This was much more exciting than the news that my Ancestry DNA test results were in, which, although anxiously awaited, totally underwhelmed me.  I will write more on this subject later.
I had already tested with 23andMe and Ancestry, had uploaded my raw DNA to and taken advantage of the free transfer to MyHeritage, so I was not expecting FamilyTreeDNA to offer anything new, other than being another hook in the genealogical pool, which might snag some results in the future.
Within an hour of uploading the raw DNA file from 23andMe, my matches were displayed, all 290 of them.  I immediately found a 2nd cousin, a 2nd cousin once removed and a 3rd cousin, whom I had found on other DNA testing sites.  Plus, I found a known 2nd cousin and a 2nd cousin once removed, whom I recognised from my paper research.  Not a bad start.
The matches all showed up under the "All" category, with none under the "Paternal", "Maternal" or "Both" categories, which was understandable as neither of my parents DNA were in the database.
I uploaded a GEDCOM file of my ancestry, which only took a few minutes, despite being over 6000 people, and began to link my 5 known matches to my family tree.  The report screen now showed 22 of my matches as Paternal and 7 as Maternal.  As I identify my connection to other matches, this feature will become increasingly useful in predicting which side of the family other matches are on.
The relationship range of 2nd to 3rd cousin and 2nd to 4th cousin predicted for all 5 of my known matches was correct, so another plus.
The results report can be filtered in 12 different ways, including "In Common With" and "Not in Common With", which allows you to easily find other matches that may be on the same line, or suggest which lines they are less likely to be on.
I also like the Chromosome Browser, as you can view which segments match on up to 5 people, and you can download the matching segments, if like me, you maintain a spreadsheet of matches that have been obtained from a variety of sources.
If you have tested with either Ancestry or 23andMe, I suggest that you take advantage of the FamilyTreeDNA autosomal transfer, as it will be the best $19 that you have spent on genealogy in a while.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

My Patrilineal Haplogroup

One aspect of the 23andMe DNA test that I did not mention in my last posting, is that they identify your matrilineal (mitochondrial) DNA haplogroup and, for males only, your patrilineal (Y) DNA haplogroup. 
The Y haplogroup is useful in identifying your ancestry on the male line, which, theoretically at least, should follow your surname.  i.e. all of my male line ancestors, since surnames were introduced, should have the surname "Cosgrave" or some variant of this.
My primary interest in my male line DNA is to try and determine if my Cosgrave ancestors, from the Belfast area of Antrim, Ireland, were long time Irish or if they were Plantation Scottish settlers.  They were Presbyterians / Unitarians, suggesting a possible Scottish connection, but I have been unable to verify this from paper records to date.
23andMe identifies that my Y haplogroup is R1b1b2a1a2f*, so what does that tell me?
Exploring further on 23andMe, I learn that "R1b1b2 is the most common haplogroup in western Europe, where its branches are clustered in various national populations. R1b1b2a1a2b is characteristic of the Basque, while R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland and R1b1b2a1a1 is most commonly found on the fringes of the North Sea".  So, I am not really any further ahead.
I did a number of online searches and found that although R1b1b2a1a2f* sounds very detailed, it is a very broad category, and I will need to do further testing to narrow down my result any further.
23andMe focusses on autosomal DNA testing, so I searched for other possible Y-DNA testing companies, and decided to test with FamilyTreeDNA.  When the kit arrived, I swabbed my cheek, submitted the test kit, and sat back to wait for the result....