Guest Post: Genetic Genealogy

Posted April 26, 2011 by Geni | No Comment

Today, we present a guest post about the possibilities of genetic genealogy by Andrea Badger.

A while back, I briefly wrote about Relative Finder, a service offered by the DNA company 23andme. This program is able to search for segments of DNA that you share with other customers in the database. These shared segments of DNA imply a common ancestor – these people are your genetic relatives.

When I first got my 23andme results over a year ago, I had only 214 relatives. The 23andme customer base has expanded so much since then that as of today, I have 645 matches. One is predicted to be my third cousin (meaning we would share great-great grandparents). 56 are predicted to be 4th cousins (shared great-great-great grandparents). 390 are predicted to be my 5th cousins (shared great-great-great-great grandparents). 13 are predicted to be my 7th cousins (shared 6th great-grandparents). 28 are predicted to be my 10th cousins (shared 9th great-grandparents). 157 are predicted to be Ashkenazi Jewish cousins (cousins with Jewish ancestry are categorized slightly differently than everyone else).

Not all of these matches are interested in genealogy — many may have joined the site for health reasons, for example. However, I have found that there are enough members interested in their ancestry to keep things exciting. Right now, 188 of my matches have accepted my invitation.

Relative Finder provides you with a long list of your relatives, like this:

You are able to see the calculated predicted relationship as well as the percentage of DNA shared and the number of segments shared, but it’s all anonymous — your name is not shared until you give permission.

I will describe the process. You can send invitations to your relatives by clicking the blue Make Contact button.

Here is an invitation that I received:

Once someone receives your invitation, they can choose to either accept or decline.

After a relative has accepted, you can send messages to one another to try to figure out who your common ancestor is. There is also a space in your 23andme profile to write all of your family surnames, so you can look at one another’s surnames and see if any names match.

Here’s what my surnames look like, for example.

By using Relative Finder, I have learned that an old family legend my grandmother told me — that we had Jewish ancestors who converted and changed their name from Levi to Lewis — is TRUE. I have also been able to confirm eight generations of my Napier line, going back to 1697.

All of the various aspects of my ancestry that I have learned about from Relative Finder have been invaluable to my genealogy research. I would encourage anyone interested in genealogy to take a look at! Please let me know if you have any questions about it.