The DNA Testing Companies Ignore Customer Feedback and Requests

>> Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Please do not include FTDNA in this category, As a company, they have tried to be very helpful and responsive. My comments in this blog are for 23andme and AncestryDNA. Both of these companies give us the impression that the customer is just a nuisance factor to be ignored. They are both going after the big money from selling our data and seem to be forgetting - no customer equals no data.

I will start with 23andme. For years 23andme has ignored the complaints and requests from genealogical customers to change the way genealogical searchers can interact with matches on 23andme. These have been the chief complaints:
  • Contacts with anonymous matches are limited and ignored
  • Obscure options have affected results
    • No close relative option
    • People do not understand that a match must share genomes for you to see any data about them at all as opposed to other testers
    • No ICW information unless you extract it one at a time - also not clear to users
    • People are anonymous without their knowing it
    • C of A is a poor substitute for real information and people do not know that they have to use it.
I even have a first cousin match that is anonymous there and now it has disappeared. This is frustrating enough for me, what if I were a adoptee and this was my only close match. Is this any way to treat a customer.

In the last month, 23andme has announced extensive changes in the user interface and data interpretation. We are waiting to see what happens with that.  For all the years that they ignored user complaints, now that they are starting to repair their relationship with FDA, let' see if they figure out that the customer is an important part of the overall picture.


Ancestry DNA has continued to ignore customer requests that would allow their data to be better aligned with the rest of the industry. Anyone trying to map chromosomes throughout their ancestral tree is out of luck with Ancestry data. The decision to provide "black box" data manipulation has also made it difficult for adoptees and those in endogamous relationships to make educated guesses about the alignment of DNA segments and the length of those segments. Traditional comparisons across results from different companies is not possible unless tests are uploaded to FTDNA or GedMatch,
  • We wanted a chromosome browser for these reasons, so they gave us Timber which eliminated even some valid matches, 
  • We wanted a chromosome browser so they gave us DNA circles and NADS, (did I tell you my only NAD was the wife of a first cousin, seven times removed, This was far from useful.
  • We wanted a chromosome browser so they gave us DNA Matches.
  • We wanted a chromosome browser so they gave us total cM and number of segments after they had fragmented them through a form of phasing
For some reason AncestryDNA has their blinders on or they have decided that they know what is best for us.

What they seem to be ignoring is that they do not exist in a vacuum. The customer, particularly those searching for missing or unknown ancestors, needs the ability to bridge test results from different vendors and to consistently use tools and to know what we are looking at in the results.

Admittedly, AncestryDNA may be trying to move the field forward and has a different concept of what the forward direction, might be. However, they still do not exist in a vacuum and need to provide meaningful information on their results and interpretations that the average customer can understand and equate to the mixed vendor world.

Several things at this moment have made me think that I, personally, do not trust Ancestry to make the best decisions in my interests without my buy-in. These factors are based on the inability to get any kind of meaningful response from a decision maker at AncestryDNA regarding our observations that the New Ancestry as they call it is not ready for prime time. I have been trying to contact managers at AncestryDNA with no success to this point to provide actual cases of problems. No one seems interested.

Two areas of Concern with the New Ancestry

There are two major areas of concern for those of us working heavily with Ancestry data in regards to the New Ancestry imposition on the customer.

1 - User interface
The new user interface is very awkward to use and requires more clicks, and more interim copying of data by handwriting.
Here are some specifics I have noted. The list is by no means complete.
  • I can’t just hover to get basic information from tree boxes which can really slow down the user.
  • I Cannot cut and paste basic info to tree from the initial views into a developing tree or for comparison.
  • More clicks needed for many operations
  • I want the family tree as a tree, it is very slow to have to scan a story and get the information
  • Very few hints are available, meaning that you have to go to Search Records for information and it is a long way back to a screen where you can enter information you have looked up so information must be written down in the interim.
  • The hints like the Ancestry Review are too light a gray on a white background, hard for older people to see.           
  • The box that comes up to enter a new individual sits right over the one in the tree you might want to copy the information from and grays out the tree info under it making it impossible to copy the information. The box should be movable and the screen underneath still visible;
  • Ancestry as a genealogy tool is still severely lacking in functionality. You should be able to merge gedcoms, split off branches, see offspring with at least birth dates all at one time. Deletions of siblings for example should be available to do more than one at a time. Merging of duplicated individuals has no utility to identify them as duplicates and no way to merge them other than a single one at a time. Deleting an individual takes you back to the owner of the tree instead of leaving you where you were. There is no reporting ability and this is ridiculous in this day and age.
  • Ancestry's attempts at an almost a comic book interface are insulting to the genealogy user. I want facts, not facts buried in prose.
  • I have been working with several people who had worked on trees previously and cannot figure out how to use the New Ancestry to do the most rudimentary tasks.
2 - Data Integrity
I could get stuck in this part of the discussion for a long time. This is very important to the customer.
Searches and matching are bringing up wrong information.

Example: Hovering over census data shows a different person in the tip screen than the person in the  census. This is not a one time occurrence but is happening repeatedly.

Example: Search on a person born in California in 1932 for example. The unrestricted search brings up thousands of hits. Refine the search to an exact date, a range of dates still appear in the hits. add the restriction to California as Exact birth place and I will get no hits. This happens consistently.

Example: Search on a name with the exact restriction and some of the time it comes up with an entirely different name, some time with many similar names, sometimes with several occurrences of the name and sometimes with no hits. This can be on one search after another.

Example: Look for the duplicate of a name to merge two names together. It may not come up and you have to go to the second name and search from that direction to get the hit.

Example: Look for the name of a person in the tree you are working on and you may or may not get a hit (the person is in the tree)

Example: Try reporting an error of this type to the help desk and you will be told it may be fixed when it fits in with its priorities.

Example: Date errors in the returns. especially with city directory results. Many pages there have the date format incorrect.

Example: 1940 census interpolation is so bad that one has to have an excellent imagination for possibilities to find people.

Example: Searches on census results may not get a valid hit, even though your person is actually in the database

Example: The leaf hints are not nearly as reliable as they used to be. Vital information is not brought up, and wrong information presented

Example: Date and place formats should be enforced to facilitate searching and comparison. Look at PC and Mac programs for how that is done.

Example: A DNA circle centered around Jesse Gallimore. When the user clicks on more about, a totally different and unrelated Jesse Gallimore comes up

These are not the only examples, I just picked a few. This not a professional way to run a business.


Ancestry is a big business founded to help people research their family  history. They have decided to go for the really big money to sell data to pharmaceutical companies. What a deal, take the traditional customer and ignore their stated needs, charge money to collect your data, have you sign away your rights to any use of that data and reap in the profits from that sale. I expected better of ancestry than this. What makes it worse is that there is no acknowledgement of the customers' wishes here,  Ancestry remember your roots.


Our Greatest Challenge

>> Sunday, September 20, 2015

The participants
Karin Corbeil, Patty Drabing, Marianne Brown and I are all Search Angels. We are all also members of DNAadoption is a non-profit group which provides education for those trying to interpret DNA results. This means that we wear several hats, CeCe Moore has often been our mentor.

Patty is the President of, Karin is on the board of and (our tools building companion site) and she also provides the support for DNAGedcom, Diane is the director of education for DNAadoption. Marianne is our magician who we call in to solve a problem when we are stuck, or to give us ideas. We all also help people search for missing or unidentified family members by analyzing the DNA results.

This blog is intended to reveal the role of DNAadoption in the search. Others were involved and they can tell you more about their role.

How it started
About 2 years ago, CeCe Moore came to Karin and asked that she look into identifying a man known as Benjaman Kyle who was an amnesiac with no memory of who he was and only fleeting memories of his past. CeCe had been working on this case for some time on her own.
Benjaman from the early days

Benjaman had received lots of publicity but no one had come forth to say that he was someone that they knew, The police had not been able to identify him either. CeCe had gotten FTDNA to donate DNA test kits. Others, including  DNAadoption's Angel Fund, bought Ancestry and 23andme kits and paid for Ancestry accounts to work on the test results. DNAGedcom also paid for a couple of Ancestry subscriptions in the past years.

Our hearts kicked into high gear and we were determined to help out this lost man, no matter what it took. Little did we know it would take 2 years. We said all along that we did not care about who got the credit or who found the answers as long as he found out who he was and could resume a more more normal life. However, since we did solve it, we want to let others know that DNA is a miracle and that with work it can provide answers - sometimes a lot of work.

How we worked
Karin started working the DNA results and after a while asked me and Patty to give her a hand in the search. Karin's principal role continued to be analyzing the DNA and constructing a large combined tree of the people who had been identified as DNA relatives. She eventually wound up with over 30,000 people in the tree.

I assisted in the expansion of the tree and analyzing the results. Patty is an expert in resources so she helped with that as well as tree building. When I realized from some of Benjaman's memories that we had lived in some of the same places at the same time,  he and I started chatting about the days we had lived in Colorado.When Benjaman remembered a detail, I would check it out and add to a timeline. However, Karin was the real workhorse on this. She would not let it go

I also started concentrating on certain trees figuring that sooner or later they had to lead to Benjaman.

It went on and on
We had plenty of other things to do, but worked on this case when we could fit it in. One of the people who was most likely related in some way to Benjaman started helping with family genealogical history and facts, This was a big push to the search. CeCe started encouraging us on, Email between us would keep saying we have to find this answer.

I have had a method in searching.  Every time a search got to a certain point, I would call in Marianne Brown who has a wonderful reputation of being able to find information about anyone, I call her the magician.

Our methodology
In the meantime, we were using the methodology we have developed to find the missing family members of adoptees. We have been very successful with this and genealogists have started taking our classes to learn this methodology. The methodology was started when I was brand new to DNA Analysis and kept asking where are the directions. Only to find that there were none. I kept quizzing Gaye Tannebaum, an early analyst in our field and as I followed her ideas, I logged the methods being used. The first search worked! Now we were excited. Rob Warthen started developing tools for us, Karin jumped in and the two of us worked as one to improve the methodology which has proven to be a constant task, the methodology is here.

There were so many people clamoring for help and so few to help them, that we made the decision that we needed to educate searchers to use our techniques rather than do the searches ourselves. This has worked well and we offer classes at

Why this case was more difficult
Benjaman's family tree that incorporated his many DNA matches was tremendously endogamous. Not much analysis has gone into the effects of endogamy on the results of DNA testing and we were partly under the misconception of how much distortion can occur to DNA predictions with the multiple intermarriages within small communities. The marriages do cause some pile up of DNA. It appears to be at its worst with 3rd cousins and improves from second grandparents and closer where the predictions again become more accurate,

Benjaman's more immediate family
Identification is being withheld at his request. We early on identified what appeared to be his second grandparents, These families were very large families and the endogamy was occuring in small communities and within the Baptist church communities that were quite isolated. It turned out that Benjaman's specific line was less endogamous than most of the family, probably because they migrated to another area. 

Marianne strikes again
As we were wallowing in thirty thousand members of the extended tree, we once again contacted Marianne and told her that we thought we were close and just could not close the deal. After a couple of days, she asked if we had checked this branch. We looked at it, I personally took one look at it and said, OMG, he was right he is Catholic, He had insisted on this as well as his birth date throughout the search. In the meantime CeCe, was reworking data to see if she could isolate the last part. At this point, we asked CeCe to take over the actual contacts and after convincing the family that it was not a hoax, a positive identification was made.

Our reaction
We all cried with joy and relief and then went back to our other searches.Our children and grandchildren had been aware of this search over the many months and had repeatedly asked if we had solved it. They had total empathy for Benjaman, so they were the first outsiders I told. And like  in this blog the specific answers were not so important as the fact that there was an answer.

Benjaman from NBC feed after the search

Word to Benjaman
Benjaman, we grew to love you and greatly admire your strength. We were so pleased to able to give this gift to you.We wish you happiness and good health.


Acadian Adventures

>> Monday, September 14, 2015

By coincidence, I have wound up in the middle of several Acadian searches recently. I had done one previously, but I am now looking for my maternal cousin's grandfather and to our great surprise, we are finding partial Acadian roots.

This snowballed, it turns out that my cousin's wife is related to that unknown grandfather and thus to my cousin through Acadian ancestry. Then very close family friends were visiting with us when we were in Maine and they also had Acadian roots.

There is a great deal of endogamy among Acadians. There were not a huge number of them in the first place and they were geographically fairly isolated.

We decided to make out return cross country trip from Maine back to Washington through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. What a lovely adventure that turned out to be. I am using this in this blog to show you genealogy can be fun..

We had not planned on staying in Nova Scotia so long but it is an incredible place. On our way to Maine we had visited with cousin Roland Arsenault, he is of Acadian descent from New Brunswick and now living in New Hampshire. We had a lovely time going through common genealogies at our camping site in Southern Maine.,
I got lots of history background from him and then more from talking to people during our trip. What wonderful friendly people! Some of you are particularly interested in the Acadians of Nova Scotia. I have found out a lot and talked to several of them
In the early days, the Acadians had befriended the Native Americans and this saved many people during the troubles that were to come as the Indians warned them of trouble, hid them and snuck supplies to them. After a lot of French and British warfare, the Acadians who occupied very fertile country in Nova Scotia were expelled from the country. In 1755, the Acadians were forceably expelled from Nova Scotia by being loaded onto boats and sent away. Families were often separated during this and shipped to different places. Many of the Acadians were sent to France, some eventually came back to Nova Scotia, to Quebec, to Maine and other states and to Louisiana. In Louisiana they became the Cajuns.
The Arsenault family in particular escaped to Prince Edward Island. They eventually came back down into New Brunswick and settled there. This is close to the seacoast. However, when traveling in Nova Scotia, directions, which are not my strong point in the best of times totally eluded me. I had no clue to what was North, South, East or West, a brief look at Nova Scotia on a map could help to explain this. You can see what one might think of as North when there is actually east,

The Acadians had to drain the marshlands aaround Annapolis Royal and the result was beautiful, fertile farmlands.

The areas where the Acadians were eventually given some restitution were not farmlands and forced them to become fisherman and loggers

While traveling in Acadian Nova Scotia. Particularly in the French speaking areas, we came across huge churches in very small communities. They were all built around 1900. Considering that when we went to the 1900 Acadien village in Pinlico Peninsula, there were very small houses, one housed two families with a total of 23 children. These were very plain and poor communitites yet, they gathered resources to build these enormous and often very fancy churches.

We toured several of these churches with a docent. We came to one smaller church and were taking pictures of the outside and a man came over from a neighboring house and offered to show us around.

At this church we were treated to not only a tour of the church but also to the history of his ancestors. They had rich farms in the Royal Annapolis area where Acadians first settled in Canada. Some of them came via the same communities where the Pilgrims had lived in the Netherlands as a refuge before coming to North America..

After the expulsion, this man's family eventually came back to Nova Scotia and were given land by the then governing British as reparation. Unfortunately on the original, fertile lands they were farmers, but they were given lands along the coasts in rocky inhospitable terrain. Here they had to become lumbermen and fishermen.

This picture is the view from a restored Acadian village ca 1900.

Their relatives who went to Louisiana and with whom they still keep in touch, added the x to the end of their names - thus Comeau in Nova Scotia and Comeaux in Louisana. The most common names in the area before we got to Yarmouth (English town) were LeBlanc and Comeau.

This is an area of majestic old homes in many areas that have been well preserved. The churches show you what ethnicity has lived there in the last century, huge Catholic churches in the French areas and smaller Baptist, Wesleyan and Anglican churches in the English speaking areas. These were not typical Acadian homes but rather from wealthier citizens. The one below was from a Loyalist family that resettled in Nova Scotia at the time of the Revolutionary War in the United States.

These old homes were amazing, The Acadian homes were one story with a sleeping loft for the children. In the typical home ca 1900, the kids slept in the loft. This was quite different than these big fancy homes! 

The Acadian genealogy is quite well documented. I am still working on the various arms of this search and these are some good sites to check.

The Genealogy of Canada -
Canadian Automated Genealogy
Acadian Genealogy Resources
Nova Scotia Archives
Acadian Genealogy Home Page
Acadian Genealogy and History Links
Googling Acadians in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick will get you hundreds of resources.


DNAadoption Classes Turn 2 Years Old

>> Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In July of 2013, Karin Corbeil and I got the idea that there was such a huge demand for our assistance in searches, we would never be able to help everyone who needs it. Along with Rob Warthen, we had formed a Yahoo Group called DNAadoption and were determined to find a way to help people who were getting their DNA results to be able to use them in searches for family members.

A few months earlier, Gaye Tannenbaum had suggested the principles of triangulation to facilitate these searches. The concept being that people who have overlapping DNA segments and who are also ICW with each other (blood related) should share Common Ancestors. This meant that by taking these individuals and expanding their trees sufficiently, one should find these Common Ancestors. This becomes TRIangulation with the addition of the key person in the search. That  person is related through blood (ICW) to everyone they match and also has overlapping DNA segments with each of the matches.

Diane went on to document a search using these principles and create what we call the Methodology which can be found on Karin Corbeil has provided a great deal of direction to the Methodology as well.

The classes have been based on this methodology. However, earlier this year, we were re-thinking the curriculum. We now have some new classes that are not based on the methodology. In addition, seeing the questions that were being asked in our classes, we decided that we had enough experience to adapt our teaching methods. We changed to a more practical approach.

We have now taught our classes to over 1000 students. As far as we know we were the first people to offer these Autosomal DNA classes. There are now a few others offering them as well. We can offer proof that our methods work. Just the last couple of days we had 5 finds of family members among the DNAadoption folk.

In addition, our classes which were first formed for Adoptees, are now being enrolled in at the rate of about half adoptees and half genealogists. We find it so rewarding to have students come into classes, totally confused by the results of their search, but leaving in the midst of an active search.

So I am posting our class list here. All classes are online classes with access to experts who answer your questions in a class forum. You can do the classes at your own pace.

Just For Beginners - This class is designed to give you information about : Working with Yahoo Groups Mailing Lists, getting your non-id (for adoptees), the basics of DNA, DNA tests, transferring your data, building a tree, internet resources, basic tools, FTDNA, spreadsheet basics, and Messaging Your Matches. If you are either an adoptee or new to DNA and genealogy, and you do not know about Non-Ids, building trees and think we are all speaking a foreign language this class is for you.

First Look - Intro to Results classesThe First Look classes are designed to help people get started using and understanding their Autosomal DNA results with a specific vendor. This is a basic, entry level course.
This one-day course covers how to introduce yourself to matches, how to share match lists, how to link a family tree and much more. A forum is available for students to ask questions and make suggestions.
  • Ancestry DNA First Look
  •  FTDNA First Look
  • 23andme First Look
  • Gedmatch First Look
Y-DNA Classes - learn the basics of Y-DNA and how to apply it to your results.

Basic Autosomal DNA - All of the basics of DNA that you need to interpret your results. The class was changed from a theoretical style to one involving you as the student in learning how the experts solve a case. To take this class, it is suggested that you have tested at least at FTDNA and preferrably with all 3 vendors.

Advanced Autosomal DNA - Some people want to continue beyond the how to the why and this course is designed to do this. People will be working with combined results as well as a more difficult case that you will work yourself with some guidance from our team.

To sign up go to the bottom of this page:
There are now a few other classes around. Do take advantage of training that is available. It can make your search a lot easier.


Speaking to Genealogy Groups About DNA

>> Thursday, July 2, 2015

I love speaking to genealogy groups about DNA. We communicate every day with people who know quite a bit about DNA. When you speak to a genealogy group, you get all degrees of knowledge involved.

Unless the particular Genealogy Group has been heavily involved in DNA discussions, you will get quite a few people who kind of know what DNA is but not really. The attitude is "I heard you can use DNA in genealogical research".

My answer is, you sure can. It is a miracle what you can find out. But then I have to add that the 3 major testing vendors, whom you must use, make it seem like if you test, they will give you a paper with all your ancestors on it.

That of course, is not even close to the truth although we have had 2 people open their results during the course of one of our classes and find a birth parent match right then and there. That is exciting for them and the rest of us who have spent many hours on these types of searches go off and sulk, why not me? Of course those of us in the Search business actually celebrate every find even though it is not the first one.

We originally formed our group, DNAadoption, which you can join through yahoogroups, because adoptees had no clue how to use their results to search. Karin Corbeil and I published a methodology for working with Autosomal Results. We published lots of how-to pages and references and started the web site. We came to the conclusion that the dozen of us or so with growing experience in this field could not help everyone, so we moved into educating people who were getting their results. We were very surprised when our students turned out to be genealogists trying to break down brick wall or wanting to find other relatives. So even though it says Adoptees, it is really for anyone trying to use DNA to work with their genealogy.

So when we talk to genealogy group, usually they want to know how this works. Not in great detail of course, but we can explain that we turn matches into ancestors partly through triangulation. It turns out that you as the tester have overlapping DNA segments and are a blood relative to everyone of your matches. For adoptees this is a big moment, a real relative! For most others , it is more like - "I am related to ALL of these people? This will be impossible to figure out". So when talking to a group, you need to consider both of these extremes.

We have tools to organize your matches into overlapping sets of  DNA segments and to identify who is In Common With whom. (ICW). Plug the words "blood related to whom" in there instead of ICW. I use this example to explain this. Your maternal great grandmother is probably not blood related to your paternal great grandfather. However, your maternal aunts are blood related to your maternal great grandmother. We can restate that - your maternal aunts are ICW with your maternal great grandmother, and your maternal great grandmother is not ICW with your paternal grandfather.

In order to look for common ancestors to add to your family tree, you need people who have overlapping DNA segments who are blood related (ICW) with each other. You also need people who have information about a family tree. It turns out that these people that meet these conditions, have family trees that intersect with each other at some point and that these intersections are their common Ancestor. Better yet, they are your common ancestors too! This is called triangulation. To make it as easy as possible (well not easy exactly) choose matches with as long a segments as possible. The longer the better. You will never be able to get all your family trees to match though. You won't need to either.

So we describe this process to our genealogy group and some people get it, some do not.

Then comes what everybody wants to hear, real live cases. The adoptee whose birthday had been changed by two months and that you still found. The woman who when casually testing DNA for fun found out that her father was not her birth father or that she and her sister were only half sisters. We can cite older people who discovered that they were adopted only when in their sixties and who are desperate to find out who they really are before they die. Then there is the person with a rare disease which is discovered because getting a health history saved her live. You will also present cases of serious genealogists who are able to move past a long standing brick wall. The stories are many.We caution to use fictitious names for stories though. Nobody wants to be outed in that manner!

The excitement builds over your presentation, there is always that husband over in the corner who got dragged to the meeting and who is nodding off and that you cannot take your eyes off, - will he fall out of his chair?, but in general there is lots of excitement. Plan somewhere that you can continue to answer personal questions after the library closes because you will probably be there that long.

Speaking to genealogy groups is a good way to spread the word and to increase everyone's enthusiasm for the subject including yours. I think every time I have spoken, I have either found someone for a person in the audience, or given enough pointers and encouragement that a person was found by someone else.

If that isn't enough incentive, what is?

If you are a genealogy group and would like to have someone speak contact me through the comments here and we will find someone for you. If you need genealogical help with DNA, consider taking one of our classes. They are listed on our web site on the Classes tab. If you need help finding something check our website references. Give back!


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



DNA is a Miracle

>> Sunday, December 28, 2014

DNA is a miracle for those trying to find birth family members as well as those genealogists looking to get through brickwalls.

At and its associated yahoogroup, DNAadoption, we have been helping people solve those impossible searches for birth parents and birth siblings where either nothing is known about them , or where a limited amount is known. This includes adoptees, those who do not know their fathers and donor babies.

The demand for help on these cases is huge. The people who can help is limited so DNAadoption takes the approach of educating people to do their own search as much as possible. We provide classes, documents, tools (through our tool website, methodologies, and answers to questions for those who are searching.

The Methodology involves testing with at least one of the 3 major companies, and then organizing the results to show where there are overlapping DNA segments. In general, the closer the relationship, the longer the segment. 

As mentioned before, there are two sides to a helix and the address numbering sequences are the same, so in addition to the overlapping segments, it must also be determined who is In Common With (ICW) whom. I call this having a blood relationship with each other. This determines which people are on one side of the helix and which are on the other side. These are paternal and maternal side, but there is no clue at this point as to which side is which.

To follow through with the people identified in this manner as being blood related as well as sharing inherited DNA segments, it is necessary to explore the trees of these matches, If the searcher can establish an intersection between the trees at some time in history, then the ancestors of these matches are likely to be the ancestors of the searcher as well.

I have covered most of this recently but there is a new avenue to be approached to augment this, I am finding more and more matches with the help of the testing at AncestryDNA. Unfortunately, AncestryDNA does not provide visibility of the DNA segments and numbers behind their matches. so an adoptee or someone who does not have a good family tree, must upload their data to FTDNA ($39 fee) and/or to so that we can interpret these numbers into relationships. This is particularly important as we get into the closer relationships. We just had a case where Ancestry identified a match as a first cousin, but when analyzing these numbers, we realized that it was an aunt. At that point, identification of the birth father as the brother of the match was straight forward. AncestryDNA insists that most people do not want to have to work with the numbers, but in failing to provide the facts behind the match they are doing adoptees and those whose trees involve unexpected parental events, such as a father who was not the mother's husband, a great disservice. In my opinion, the reason why AncestryDNA insists on sticking to this approach can only be because of some hidden financial motive in an unknown business plan. Pressure from the community has not convinced them to change their ways. Ancestry has now tested a half million people, and they hold huge amounts of data that belong to the person testing and refuse to reveal it.

Recently Ancestry decided to develop algorithms that eliminated 2/3 or so of a person's matches. It may not have mattered to the genealogist, but to the genetic genealogist trying to uncover birth families, these smaller matches, many of which were documented to fit into an adoptee's ancestry line were important clues in the search. It is shameful that these were taken out of the matches without consideration of proven common ancestors.

Now comes the plus of Ancestry's extensive testing. This is converted to a plus by the independent development of tools to help analyze what data we have. which is run by the partnership of Rob Warthen (developer), Karin Corbeil (support) and Diane Harman-Hoog (analysis), is stepping up to provide a set of tools which can reveal relationships. As of the current stage of development, someone using, can download data from FTDNA and 23andme to analyze the DNA segments. Programs written by KItty Cooper and Juan Pizarro organize the data into a spreadsheet form, The new additions to this site, facilitate uploading gedcoms and the Ancestors of Matches and Matches files produced by the Chrome Ancestry DNA Helper, into a database where ancestors can be matched, compared and searched for pertinent data. This ability is referred to as Gworks on

This gives us a lot more insight into the flow of surnames in the trees of DNA cousins and has already revealed some birth family matches.

So now we are using the DNA to set up an investigative framework and Gworks to explore that framework. This is proving to be very powerful.

FTDNA made changes to their infrastrucure which broke our downloads process and at the same time, decided to offer a tiered system of programs. In doing so, gedmatch removed a key program output for our identification of ICW matches - changing it from a free file output of several thousand matches to a subscribe charged output of about 400 matches.  This has hurt the way adoptees can work with this data. At the same time, FTDNA really stepped up to the plate and is now providing an API through which Rob and his programmers can download more reliable data. Thank you FTDNA! But all these changes happened at the same time and necessitated our suspending our classes until the process could be redefined and new documentation written. Classes should resume for Autosomal DNA in the near future and we have just added an Y-DNA class to start this month.

So I see a lot of progress and hope for great work and results in 2015.


Adoption Searches Using DNA

>> Thursday, November 21, 2013

The method some of us have developed in the DNAAdoption group  for working with Autosomal DNA results is pertinent to genealogy searches as well.

You will find a methodology and other documentation on
There is a yahoogroup DNAadoption, that provides interchange of information among individuals working with their DNA results.

Despite what the ads for DNA testing look like, in almost every case, it takes a great deal of work to uncover the connections. However, the methodology does work.

Usually one gets a list of DNA cousins spread over many generations. However, recently one lucky person logged in to see her results and found that her birth mother had been tested and identified! This is everyone's dream of course.

The usual method is to identify the closest cousins. The longer the length of overlapping DNA segments, the closer the relationship. Then we try to get trees for these cousins and identify how they are related. Where the have a common ancestor, the person who is seeking also has that ancestor. Working down through trees looking for a person who might have been in the right place at the right time, it is necessary to follow all offspring of all generations. This can get pretty messy to follow, so I break out a separate tree using genealogy software of all descendants of that common ancestor.

I am working with a woman who has been looking a long time. She went a couple of years without any significant results from her DNA testing, but in the last couple of months has gotten results from 8 third DNA cousins. It is now a matter of hoping for good trees and following down these trees looking for the point where they once again intersect.

I have now been able to add people who tested with all three systems to one spreadsheet for comparison. I do this by downloading the FTDNA and 23andme files from I use data in FTDNA's chromosome browser list and 23andme's FIA list. The only data you will have in the FIA list is that from people who have shared genomes with you. I then ask Ancestry matches to upload to where I can see the chromosome numbers. Now I can compare the data of what once seemed like apples and oranges.

I hope in the next blog to give you some success stories.


The Miracle of DNA for Adoptees

>> Sunday, October 27, 2013

When I first started working with DNA for adoptee searches, I had some skepticsm as to how it could be done by most adoptees. Many of those searching having little computer experience and are older than the average computer user. I can now report that I am pleasantly surprised. In my first couple of months of searching, I asked everyone I came across for an outline of the methodology that should be used with DNA results to find birth family. No one could really tell me, so I finally stopped looking and decided to write down the process as I went. It was a trial and error process that continues to be refined to this day. The original methodology was contributed to by many patient people. Recently Karin Corbeil has been a huge help. With Karin's encouragement, I wrote a class on Working With Autosomal DNA. Karin and I take turns teaching it. Over 100 people have completed the course. The class has been very successful. To our immense gratification the method works. It is really a lot of effort, but it does work and it does identify birth families. You can find out about the class on the DNAadoption server. If you browse through the site index you will see many kinds of papers for various aspects of the search.

When I started working with DNA, we might have had one or two reunions a month at the most. Now we have having multiple ones per week and the rate of solution is increasing.

A few months ago, a core of the DNA Search Angels and technologists moved to a new Yahoogroup - DNAAdoption. This was done so that people who were serious about advancing the ability to use DNA results could communicate more directly with those who were searching and so that we would have a place to make our documentation and tools available for those who need them. You can join this group at DNA Adoption Yahoo Group. Sometimes there are lots of messages but by reading them you will accumulate knowledge of the subject and also find out how to get more information.

There is a third part to our educational system. This is the server where you can download tools and use on line tools to get your data from tests. About our class; it is necessary to learn to work with a spreadsheet to do the work. We are talking about storing and manipulation large amounts of data. We had one lovely lady in our first class who was pretty clueless on spreadsheets and DNA. She is in her late 70s. She worked hard and is now researching her data as well as answering questions for others. We are so proud of her. It can be done!

The process is that you test. You get a set of DNA cousins back. You identify those that have overlapping DNA segments with each other. Then we triangulate these results with you as part of the triangle. We have to use trees to find where people are related. We build a lot of trees. Once we have identified persons who are 3rd DNA cousins (common great-great grandparents or closer), we start to look at all the offspring in every generation, looking for someone in the right place at the right time who generally meets the predicted generation difference. Often this requires another DNA test to confirm or deny. The suspense of waiting for results is intense, but what joy when it comes through.

I hope if you are an adoptee and have been kept from finding your birth parents by lack of information, you will investigate this possibility. We are solving the impossible ones! It truly is a miracle!


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