I attended a couple of great classes at RootsTech as well. The Salt Palace is a really big place, so after the keynotes the schedule allows for four classes with ample downtime to walk to the next class or visit the expo hall. I even had time to go to lunch with a friend who works downtown.
##DNA and Ancestry## The first class I attended was on DNA and how it is used to determine ancestry. This was fascinating!. There’s lots of ‘stuff’ in our cells, including three different types of DNA that is useful in family history work: autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA.
###Autosomal DNA### Autosomal DNA is like a ‘deck of cards’. The autosomal DNA that you carry represents the specific hand you were dealt. Blue eyes, brown hair, big toes, and other specific features come from the deck of cards. Within a family, each child will be dealt a different hand, explaining why they have different but largely similar features. In ancestry, this type of DNA is used to determine people who are most likely related to you, within five generations. It covers cousins, aunts, uncles, paternal grandmothers, and other people in the middle of your family tree.
###mtDNA### Mitochondrial DNA comes from the mother’s direct line of mothers. Think of this as the right flank of the family tree. mtDNA is very stable and is used to match direct ancestry of daughters to mothers up to 50 generations back.
###Y-DNA### Similar to mtDNA - Y-DNA represents the direct paternal line, or the left flank of the family tree. It is passed from father to son through the generations. It is also very stable and tracks heritage back 25 generations. I am particularly excited about this type of DNA. We have been stuck on my paternal line for many years with a Peter Neeley. He came across the ocean, we assume from Ireland, but we’ve been unable to find records of his birth or parents.
###Markers and Tests### DNA also has the concept of ‘markers’, The class assumed an understanding of these, and only mentioned that there are different tests (with increasing costs) for different marker levels. The numbers I heard were 37, 67, and 111. Increasing the number of markers you test for will increase the likelihood of finding direct matches.
But getting tested is only useful if you are willing to submit your DNA ‘code’ to a database to be used for matching. The test obviously can’t match you against someone who is not in the database. There are currently three major companies that offer DNA testing for family history purposes. The class was presented by FamilyTreeDNA.com, the first company to do this kind of testing. The others are Ancestry.com and 23AndMe.com.
Because different databases will have different submitted DNA, the instructor recommended we submit our ‘code’ to all three. This increases the likelihood of finding a match. Each company offers transfer services that will let you import your test results from one vendor into the tothers. Many of the questions at the end of the session were devoted to understanding the most efficient and cost effective way to do this. For example, FamilyTreeDNA can import tests from ancestry.com, but the reverse is not true. Also, ancestry.com does not do Y-DNA testing anymore.
The instructor also taught us about haplogroups and subgroups, which are a way of categorizing the ethnicity and world origins of your DNA. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, so I won’t say too much about it. But if you’ve ever seen a map showing where your ancestors lived most of their lives, a haplogroup map is similar.