Some Views on Supporting Those Looking For Family Members with DNA

>> Sunday, June 28, 2015

Several years ago, a handful of us took on the responsibility of supporting the Adoption Community through forums, tools and education. We carefully put a support structure in place including:

  • DNAadoption Yahoo Group  - where we actively support people trying to analyze DNA results as well as provide community support for the technical and emotional issues that a group like this has.
  • - which provides many how-to documents and resources that range from getting started to advanced search topics
  • Technical Support - mostly through Karin Corbeil who provides support answers for third party software as it applies to our group and for utilities as well as our computing resources.
  • Educational Resources - We have held the first classes on Autosomal DNA analysis and have continued to grow the scope of the classes to include Beginning, Basic and Advanced Autosomal classes, Y classes and classes to help people learn the ins and outs of working with different vendors. We have had 925 students to date, many taking more than one class.
  • Advocacy for the Adoptee - through participation in many online groups
  • A growing Support Resource for Genealogists' Education in DNA analysis
  • A greatly expanded tool set and utilities to facilitate data gathering and analysis mostly by Rob Warthen through DNAGedcom. com including:
    • Download capabilities for FTDNA data through an established API.
    • This includes Chromosome browser files, ICW files, Family Finder matches and the 
    • new ability to download FTDNA tree data to Gworks on DNAGedcom
    • Download capabilities for several 23andme files
    • The ability to process these files for triangulation and ICW status.
    • A utility to accept data from Gedmatch Triangulation Tier 1 utility and the Segment matcher and prepare it so that it can be processed by our triangulation  utilities and compared with data from other sources.
    • The Gworks utility to search data from the matches and to compare it.
    • Providing ADSA utility by Don Worth
    • Providing Jworks by Juan Pizarro
    • Providing Kworks by Kitty Munson Cooper,
    • The ability to compare results from different vendors

You can see that we have put a lot of time and effort into the support infra-structure which has grown to include about 60% non-adoptee genealogists.

Earlier this year, DNAGedcom split into two parts to better support education through a non-profit entity (DNAdoption) and DNAGedcom remained for tools development and support.

This is all supported by monies from classes as well as donations.

So what am I getting to? This is a Pet Peeve of mine. People have taken to opening FaceBook pages to support Adoptees. Unfortunately most of these lack:

  • Support infra structure
  • Support personnel
  • A file structure to adequately support case research.
The typical FaceBook page for Family Searching comes to Karin and I as a statement that a new FaceBook page has been set up and that we are named as administrators on these groups. Most of these groups are really floundering. The people have so little resources and education and are not directed to ones that are available. I feel very sorry for them. The answers that they get from fellow lost souls are atrociously inaccurate. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot take responsibility for everything that comes my way.

I have taken on a personal responsibility to monitor these pages and to answer questions that need answering as they came up. No More.

I noticed that I was not getting any mail stream on Facebook from my family. All the items in my Facebook Feed were from these support pages. I started removing groups from active monitoring by me and lo and behold, I am now getting messages and pictures from my family again.

I have made the personal decision that the person who sets up a Facebook page has a personal responsibility to support the people who use the page and to spend time developing the resources to support it.

FaceBook is a very poor forum for working these cases any way. It also does not have a good structure for Help Desk type support.

So I will be continuing to provide answers and support to the DNAadoption classes, to the DNAadoption yahoogroup, to the Unknown fathers group and to those who personally seek my help as well as for the time being to the DNA-Newbie Facebook users who seem particularly to need my help. This leaves me a little more time to research issues, write classes and answer class questions and to keep the infrastructure of DNAadoption up to date.

This is fair warning, please do not set  up a new Family Finding or DNA research Facebook page and expect me to be an administrator. It is not going to happen.

To those who have chosen the Facebook interface over the yahoogroup interface and all the support people and resources that are in place, think about the quality of the information that you get and go to the places that can really give you the support that you need and deserve.

There are a couple and I would really limit it to a handful of decent Support assistance Facebook pages, but research the help resources that you are asking for. Do not increase your personal frustration level by joining unsupported Facebook groups. Like it or not, the number of people who can help you is severely limited, be picky about the support level you get. If you are joining a Facebook page because of the social experience, that is one thing. Think about the type of support you need and go where it is.



Ancestry is Playing Around With Your DNA

>> Thursday, June 4, 2015

And you have no say in the matter.

Ancestry has decided to reinvent not only genetic genealogy, but also genealogy itself.
They do not give us the ability to check their predictions against the known facts of genetic genealogy by refusing to provide a chromosome browser capability.If you can get your match to upload their results to gedmatch that is wonderful. Then I can get an idea of how this person might fit into the family I am helping.

However, and it is a really big however only about 10% of the Ancestry testers make it to gedmatch, So we can not check between multiple matches. Another big "However", Ancestry provides the capability to share DNA results. I have records of sending out several hundred sharing requests and have received 3 agreements to do that.

Now Ancestry has taken it upon themselves to do 3 things, supposedly in place of a chromosome browser. One of their excuses has been that the average DNA tester cannot work with chromosome data. Has anyone at the company tried to figure out how the new approaches that Ancestry now gives us really works for adoptees. It s a lot more complex than working with chromosome data, I assure you.

The 3 things Ancestry has given us are:

DNA Circles; A grouping of people Ancestry has decided are related to you, no matter what the DNA says, The position is that they take a couple of people who do share DNA with you and try to link up others who share tree connections in their collections. One of my questions after writing a lesson on using these tools, is why do I want to include third cousins 3 times removed in my tree? Almost all of the people they present as being related to me are - so what? They are not people one would normally have added to a family tree. I will admit that I identified the offspring of a very distant cousin through these circles, but if I had wanted to, I would have already discovered them in a more direct way.

Predicted Ancestors, called New Ancestor Discoveries. I prefer to refer to these as Predicted Ancestors as they may be someone's New Ancestor Discoveries, but they are not mine. As an adoption researcher, they might as well give me the Emperor of China. I would have as much chance of finding the tie in as I do with these "NAD"s.

Your Ancestor's Life. Now here comes Ancestry's attempt to reinvent your genealogy. For your DNA Circles matches and Predicted Ancestors, they scrape the bottom of the barrel and lump together all those erroneous trees and give your Ancestor a totally new life. My third great-grandfather, for instance, one of a line of namesakes, marries his step mother in their version, and moves around the State of Maine when in fact, the county and town names changed. Who can I get to correct this? Ancestry is contaminating the carefully researched life histories reported by many genealogists, In my book, this is a crime.

I do suggest to people that they test first with Ancestry as the database and resources are so huge that I am eventually solving many of my cases with the help of their data. There is a difference in data and information. I am looking at Ancestry for data. They want to give me information, data that they have processed and given their slant.

When I suggest that people test with Ancestry, I tell them that they must upload the results to Gedmatch and to FTDNA so I have a backbone of chromosome data to work with. That has been working reasonably well. If possible a person should also test with 23andme so that they can fish in all the ponds of test takers.

We are all aware that interpreting your test results can involve a lot of work. The advertisements make it sound like you test and they hand you the ancestors you need to identify, Well, it does  not work that way. We at DNAAdoption and DNAGedcom work hard to provide educational resources to help you.

I have been rewriting our classes with a different approach in mind. What if I give you the chance to actually work through a case with me. I explain the theories and facts along the way and provide lots of resource and hints about how to proceed.  We have split our old class into a Basic Autosomal Class and an Advanced Class. The Basic will give you all the instruction you need for 95% of the cases, but if you have a particularly difficult case or you are a DNA Junkie type person, I will go deeper into some advanced techniques in the Advanced Class.

We also have a Beginning Class for the very new Beginner,We have First Look classes for when you get your First Results to help you move around the vendor's web site and a Y-DNA class.

You can see the list of classes at We have an automatic sign up process that takes payment through Paypal.  You can always send us a check instead if you prefer. We have extremely low charges for these online classes that you take at your own pace. If you have a financial hardship we will waive the fee.

I am sorry it was so long between posts but I have been awfully busy.I hope this one helps you to skeptically look at Ancestry information and prove or disprove it in your search.

Happy Searching and enjoy the journey



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