Why test with Family Tree DNA?
I am an absolute freak about DNA testing. I test every family member I can because I have been doing family history for decades, and I can finally prove or disprove my genealogical research with DNA. Best of all, I can use DNA to find ancestors when no documentation exists to prove the relationship. Sometimes it takes more than one kind of test to do this, and I know that in the future DNA tests will be even better than they are today. Therefore, I need a DNA testing company that offers more than one kind of test and one that will store my DNA samples for future testing. Family Tree DNA is the only company that does this. Family Tree DNA offers Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA (the Family Finder test). FTDNA guarantees that they will store your DNA sample, unless you tell them not to, and you can conduct more tests in the future with the same sample. So no matter what other DNA testing companies I use [and I use them all!] I always submit a DNA kit to Family Tree DNA. I have so many kits there I have a database to keep track of all of them.
Today we will examine the Family Finder test and the new tool that actually made me cry when I used it because I got so emotionally excited. I have one more reason to test with Family Tree DNA.
Autosomal DNA and chromosome browsers
We all know that we received 50 % of our mother's DNA and 50% of our father's DNA. Our siblings also inherited 50% of each, but not the same 50% unless we are identical twins. My father is deceased, but my mother is alive. If I only tested myself, then the 50% of my dad's DNA that I did not inherit would be lost forever. Luckily I have three siblings, so I can reconstruct a large proportion of my father's DNA by comparing all of our DNA to our mother's.
Family Tree DNA offers a chromosome browser so that you can compare your Family Finder results with other people's and see exactly where your common DNA is. Here's the problem. There are 23 lines in the chromosome browser; one for each of your 23 chromosomes. But we have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Take a look at this chromosome browser comparison of my mother and me:
The orange shows where we have matching DNA. It looks like I inherited ALL of my DNA from her! Look at my mother and her sister:
In the image above, the orange shows where they have inherited identical DNA segments. The black shows the segments where they didn't inherit the same DNA from either of their parents. That illustrates why it's so important to test siblings. However, in any orange segment you can't tell whether DNA was inherited from their father, mother, or both. Now look at the same comparison from 23andMe:
You can clearly see where my mother and her sister inherited the same segment (light blue) from one of their parents, where they inherited identical segments from both parents (dark blue), and where they inherited different segments from both parents (white). However, you still don't know which DNA segment was inherited from the mother or the father.
This is the problem with all of our autosomal DNA matching. When we see that a DNA segment is shared between two people, we cannot know for sure if that segment is shared from our mother's side of the family or our father's. So let's try to prove an ancestral connection and see if we can solve this problem.
Solving female ancestry with autosomal DNA
I love solving problems with Y-DNA, but it's for male lines. This time I want to smash a brick wall about women, so I'll use autosomal DNA. One of my most nagging problems was finding the family of my great-great-grandmother whose maiden name was Martha Gay. Nobody in the family knew anything about her parents. Martha is shown sitting front center in this photo. Her daughter, my great-grandmother Margaret George, is standing at the far right. The other two women are daughters-in-law.
I want to find Martha's family, but she did not make this easy on me! Her marriage record to Charles George says her name was Martha Copeland, but this is her second marriage so Copeland is not her maiden name. She appeared in census records where a different birth place was shown in each one: Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee, and, of course, her age wasn't consistent.
Her death certificate didn't help either.
So here I am with a woman named Martha Gay (if the maiden surname is correct), born somewhere in the Southern United States. I didn't know if she ever had any brothers or sisters. It took me a very long time to narrow it down and decide that she was born in 1850 in Elbert County, Georgia, and that her father was James Gay and her mother's name was Eliza Hendrick (Hendricks, Hendrix). Oh sure, this is all I do, so I'm pretty good at it. But obviously I could have made a wrong conclusion. Now I want to prove this with DNA. Since I'm doing a woman's story I want to confirm that Eliza Hendrick was my third-great-grandmother.
My mother has a second cousin who is descended from Charles and Martha (Gay?) George.
This is the comparison of my mother to her second cousin:
This is just a general overview. You can see the exact positions of each match by clicking "View this data in a table" at the top of the chromosome browser.
Now you will see a table like this:
Each chromosome is numbered, and the exact starting and ending location of each match is shown. I would like to know which ancestor passed along along each of these segments. Did one of them come from Eliza Hendrick?
In Common With tool
I went to my mom's list of Family Finder matches, and clicked the box next to her cousin's name.
I then clicked the "In common with" tool to see how many people shared DNA with my mother and her second cousin.
There were too many matches, so I used the "Advanced Search" to narrow the match list down to the people who share DNA with both my mother and her George cousin and who have the surname Hendrick in their family tree. Since the name can be spelled multiple ways, I just entered the letters "hendr"
Now the list was more manageable. I found a man who is carrying the surname and noticed that he had a family tree and was descended from Eliza Hendrick's brother.
This looks very promising. I checked the box next to his name and used the Chromosome Browser to compare my mom to her George cousin and her possible Hendricks cousin.
Look at Chromosome 10!
That sure looks like they all inherited this DNA segment from our common Hendricks ancestor, but to confirm this I really need to know that these two men are not only matching my mother but are matching each other. I don't have access to their kits, so there has been no way to see this matching without having them download their results to another database.
What we have is a great hint. I have never liked it when I asked a question and someone answered, "I'll give you a hint." No, just TELL me!
Now I have a tool that will tell me.
Fabulous new tool for FTDNA Family Finder
Goran Runfeldt developed a tool called the Triangulator. You can find it at dnagen.net/triangulator. I learned about this a few days ago when I was watching videos from Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2017. Roberta Estes announced it, and I immediately downloaded it. Thanks Roberta! But most of all, thank you Goran!! This tool is so easy to use it's amazing. You don't have to download anything, and it's just one click to use it. As soon as you install the tool in your browser (it's easiest with the Chrome browser), you then log into your Family Tree DNA account and go to your list of Family Finder matches. You'll see the new Triangulator in the icon "dnagen tools".
Now watch what happens. I clicked the boxes next to Mr. George and Mr. Hendricks, and instead of clicking Chromosome Browser I clicked Triangulator, The screen below immediately appeared. Notice what it is doing. Even though I don't have access to the George and Hendricks kits, the Triangulator is seeing if they match one another and downloading their match data.
This was happening so fast that it took a few tries for me to get fast enough to capture the screen shots before the process was finished. Now it is downloading the match data for Mr. George and my mother:
Finally, it downloaded the match data for Mr. Hendricks and my mother:
Notice above that Mr. George and Mr. Hendricks are estimated to be 2nd - 4th cousins, Mr George and my mother are estimated to be 1st - 3rd cousins, and Mr. Hendricks and my mother are estimated to be 3rd to 5th cousins. This means that Mr. George and Mr. Hendricks must share more matching DNA with one another than they share with my mother.
Here's the Triangulator conclusion:
This is so cool. They are all matching on Chromosome 10. The yellow segment is called the "Non-triangulated match area." This means that all three people did not share the entire segment. Portions of the longer yellow segment are shared by two of the people, but not all three. All three of them share the red segment. I can find out all of the shared segments on all chromosomes by downloading the "All Segments CSV." When I did, here's what I found out about Chromosome 10:
Names Start Location End Location Centimorgans Matching SNPs
George-Hendricks 16085542 62587402 42.9 11041
George-Mom 15644423 37088766 24.2 6096
Hendricks-Mom 15146447 37088766 25.01 6296
Since all three people have the same Hendricks ancestors in their tree with no other common ancestors, and all three share a common DNA segment, I now know for sure that Eliza Hendrick(s) was my ancestor. I can now add the notation "Confirmed with DNA" to my ancestors at WikiTree.
Here's why I cried when I found this. I share quite a bit with Eliza Hendrick. I am carrying her mitochondrial DNA in every cell in my body. I ordered a mtDNA full sequence test in 2005, but have not yet proven with mtDNA that Eliza was my ancestor. I have proven it with autosomal DNA.
Did the common DNA segment come from Eliza's father or her mother?
We still don't know whether the common DNA segment was inherited from Eliza's father or her mother. But I can find out. I found another Hendrix in my mother's list of matches and clicked next to his name.
Mr. Hendrix does not have a family tree, but I added him to the chromosome browser with my mother, Mr. George, and Mr. Hendricks. Here are the results:
And the Triangulator results:
I can keep doing this with other matches. If any of them turns out to be a descendant of Eliza's parents, it will be one more confirmation. But if any is related to me another generation back, I will know whether the common DNA segment was inherited from Eliza's father or her mother.
I am fired up to find the answer. The journey is just beginning. Love that Triangulator!