Friday, July 31, 2015

The DNA learning curve

Learning how to use DNA to assist with paper research

I was so happy when the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California announced they were having Dr. Janzen do a presentation on DNA. I was there before it was hot on the Internet for two seconds. I attended with mixed emotions. I was tired and yet I needed and need to know everything I can about genetic genealogy. His lecture lasted about 2 hours. The room was small and hot. I was interested but I was sleepy too because I didn't get enough sleep because of the excitement of going to the lecture. He taught me the importance of starting and ending points, overlapping and the name of a piece of software: DNAgedcom. I had trouble with the software because I didn't follow the instructions explicitly. I emailed the developer and they walked me through the process. I finally had my kit up and could see my matches and who I matched along with my matches. For example ( I am going to use aliases to protect my matches) Mr. Green is a match which I found over on 23&Me. I knew he and Mr. Blue, his father matched me. I contacted him 11 November, 2014. We traded emails and few ideas about how we might be related but we couldn't come up with an answer. After a while, the conversation died off. I was unable to confirm with paper that he matched me; I needed more evidence. That is where going to the lecture and having the new software paid off. Mr. Green and his father, Mr. Blue match me on a specific sequence of DNA. After I uploaded the 400 or so matches above 7 cMs (centimorgans is unit of measurement for DNA), I had a better picture of who I matched and who Mr. Blue and his father Mr. Green matched and who the three of us matched together. Mr Green and his father Mr. Blue matched Mr. Pink and Mr. Pink's daughter Ms. Blue. I also figured this out over on 23&Me but I could see it graphically.

With DNAgedcom, I could now see who else matched Mr. Green, Mr.Blue ( Mr. Green's father), Mr. Pink and Ms. Blue (Mr. Pink's daughter). Mr. Red joined the party on this sequence we all seemed to share. Mr. Black, Mr. Orange and Mr. Brown decided to tag along. I ran my kit against Mr. Green's kit; I then ran my kit against Mr. Green's father Mr. Blue to make sure they matched. Then I went down the list comparing my kit against Mr. Pink, Mr. Pink's daughter (Ms. Blue), Mr. Brown, Mr. Orange. Mr. Red and Mr. Black. I had to go through and run Mr. Green and or his father Mr Blue's kit against the list of kits to see if they matched. All the kits matched. Now I knew prior to all the kit matching that Mr. Green and his father Mr. Blue matched me and my mother. I knew this when I contacted Mr Green back on 11 November, 2014. He knew it as well. I made a copy of all the matches and sent it to Mr. Blue and I waiting for him to get back to me. I also have to go through each person who matched and send them an email telling them the scenario, I just described. People frown on mass emails; it would make it simple to cc or bcc but I had one sent to me and it was not a good idea. Imagine having a list of 20 matches that matched each other and you? This is why it takes so much time to do this work. I haven't even mentioned the fact that we still haven't figured out who our most recent common ancestor is yet. I think this is a match on my mother's paternal line. That is to say, the Hairston family but after it goes pass my great grandmother, it is a toss up. Luckily I had my grandmother's DNA (thank you cousins) to phase or split with my mother's so I get a pseudo kit for my grandfather. All of those kits match the pseudo kit for my grandfather. Mr. Blue lives in North Carolina and his family has lived there for a long time. It is good to keep in mind that when people move, they pack up their DNA and carry it with them. It can move across oceans and borders and sometimes doesn't respect surnames or any other social constructs. So it is mostly likely that this is where our family lines cross. It may not be specifically in North Carolina--because people move-- but it is better than a shot in the dark. My family is the family that moved from North Carolina to Ohio. We just know that might be in North Carolina since both families were there during the same period and the match is only 4.3 generations or 3 great grandparents. This is just a specific sequence on one chromosome among 22. I manage 5 kits across 5 platforms. I have to try to keep up with new matches on all platforms. So please have patience while I try to figure this out. So Mr. Green and Mr. Blue are father and son. Mr. Pink and Ms. Blue are father and daughter. I just figured out that Mr.Brown and Mr.Black are probably brothers based on the amount of DNA they share. You can usually tell if two or more unknown people are related by the amount DNA they share--if it is-- the same amount of shared DNA with you and or your relative. Mr. Green and Mr. Blue (Green's father) match Mr. Pink and Ms. Blue (Mr. Pink's daughter). My mother and I match Mr Green, Mr. Blue, Mr. Pink, Ms. Blue, Mr. Brown and Mr. Black like the three pairs match each other. All of the kits match each other at the same sequence of DNA. So somewhere out of all of this is a common ancestor. Mr Red is the odd block out. He is probably a 5th maybe 6th cousin to all of us. He matches all of us but because he only share 7. 90 cMs of DNA with me, most of his data is missing. I think you have to have over 15 cMs or data gets lost from one program to the next.

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