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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 4

Whew! There has been so much going on in the world of Genetic Genealogy that I have to keep restarting this post! New videos, new books, new tools! We'll get to all that later - I'm going to continue on from the last post about 3rd-party tools.

My last post talked about the Chrome Extension, MedBetterDNA, and how I use it to take notes and color code my matches on

This post will list some of the other 3rd-party tools that I've tried, some with success and others, not so much. Usually, the lack of success is not the fault of the tool but rather the end-user!

The first 3rd-party tool that I tried was Because most of the tests that I manage are on which does not have a chromosome browser, I download the raw data from and upload it to to use their chromosome browser and other tools. Of course, I obtain informed consent from each test taker first. There are many free tools available there and an additional set of tools if you join Tier 1 for a small monthly fee.

Trying some of the tools on was, and still is, a very visual way for me to understand how sharing DNA between family members works. There are great tutorials for using and its new, updated version, Genesis,  the best place to start is the Gedmatch wiki. You do need to create a free login.

Some of the other tools that I am currently practicing with include: - a tool that lets you take the chromosome match data and create a map of your chromosome based on which grandparent (or great-grandparent or g-g-grandparent) you inherited the DNA from. It can help you identify unknown matches because, if they match you in the area you received your paternal grandfather's DNA, you only need to look at the part of the tree to research the match. Blaine Bettinger has a video on youtube that explains the process.

Visual Phasing - Using Steven Fox's automated spreadsheet, I compare myself and two siblings and attempt to "paint" each chromosome for each sibling and myself, based on which grandparent we inherited our DNA from. It's a "logic puzzle" and you use other distant cousins to determine the match. Information can be found in the very helpful Facebook Visual Phasing Working Group.

One of my favorite tools is found at, a DNA match clustering tool that groups your matches based on how they match each other. The first time I tried this tool, I was very pleasantly surprised to see how my MedBetterDNA notes from Ancestry appeared at the bottom of the report. I was especially happy to see that my notes agreed with the clustering chart from

Here is a screenshot of the chart (match names redacted). I have marked the family surnames on the report so that I can more easily remember which cluster is from which family group.

My results from the tool using Ancestry

Following the chart is a report which gives more information on each match. It was in this report that my MedBetterDNA notes surfaced. The very first part of the report with names redacted is below.

My report with MedBetterDNA notes in far right column 

Many of these are discussed in the "A Guide to Third Party Tools For DNA Testing" by Michelle Leonard. There is a fee to join the Family Tree Webinar series but it is very reasonable and there are so many excellent videos that it is an outstanding value in my opinion.

My goal is to continue practicing with these tools as well as learn the new tools that were recently released by several testing companies.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 3

In my last two posts, Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 1 and Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 2, I described how I am preparing for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) course, “Advanced DNA Evidence,” coordinated by Blaine Bettinger. I have been viewing and reviewing the many webinars covering DNA topics. I also want to add this link to RootsTech as they have grouped all their DNA webinars from the past few years together. It makes it much easier to find these webinars; thanks RootsTech!

Now, on to the next topic: I created a list of all the 3rd-party DNA tools I have tried using and which ones seem to work for my purposes. I'll share that list in a future post. For now, the one I use the most is the Chrome extension, MedBetterDNA. With all of the new announcements at RootsTech this year, my process will probably change over time, but I am still using this extension for now. 

Ancestry allows you to keep notes on your matches, notes that only you can see. If you create a note, you’ll see an icon of a notepad next to the person’s name. You can click on the note to read it. MedBetterDNA “pushes” that note to the match screen so you don’t have to click and you can see all your notes as you scroll through.

I use colored icons, depending upon the grandparent we are related through, as part of my note. I also include the relationship to me, if known, otherwise a red question mark icon. I include the number of cMs and the number of segments (ex: 189 cM/11). And then I try to find the most common recent ancestor or ancestral couple (MCRA) and add which child of that couple the person is descended from. I try to be consistent but it’s not always perfect.
Lynn's Ancestral Fan Chart

Color, instead of just words, seems to help me discern the matches more easily. Below is the key I use for my icons. I keep them on a notepad on my desktop so I can copy/paste. For close matches, I use multiple icons if they match on multiple lines. I use these specific colors for grandparents to match the Ancestor Fan Chart as created by my genealogy software program. There are also online charting tools to create similar charts. My chart is on shown on the right.

My Key:
💛   -    Descendants of ancestors of) Julia Moe (maternal grandmother)
♥️   -    Descendants of ancestors of Joseph Eken (maternal grandfather)
💚   -    Descendants of ancestors of Myrle Piper (paternal grandmother)
💙   -    Descendants of ancestors of Francis Puncochar (paternal grandfather)
  -    Not sure of the relationship

Here’s a sample page of some of my 3rd cousins with my notes. Youll have to look closely to see the colored icons. I’ve redacted the living people’s names:

So now I have most of the cousins I could identify all color coded. You can see on the 3rd cousin page above that all four colored icons appear.

When I get a new match, I look at their tree if they have one. If they don’t, I click on “Shared Matches” which tells me the matches we have in common. And, if all is right with the world, and the planets align, I get a page like this one:

And hopefully, you can see that every single one has a yellow heart icon which tells me they are related through my maternal grandmother’s line!

One problem is that even though I created the note, it doesn’t show up on other kits I manage. I have seven siblings' tests so I need to copy the note to for every match plus change the cMs shared. For paternal matches, I also need to add the information to my dad's and uncle's match list. They have a different color scheme (to match their ancestral fan chart) so I need to consider that as well.

So, after that lengthy explanation, one of the many items on my list of preparations is to keep updating the notes for all siblings and older generations. That should be a weekly task and will keep me busy all spring! It should also help me when I begin using some of the newly announced DNA tools from Ancestry and others. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 2

In my last post, Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 1, I described how I am beginning my preparations for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) course, “Advanced DNA Evidence,” coordinated by Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.  In addition to Legacy Family Tree Webinars, there are some other webinar sites that I regularly use and I will survey those for webinars on DNA topics that will help me review and study.

In no particular order:

Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS): The society has regularly scheduled webinars available free to the public, but you must register. They also archive the webinars which are available to members only at any time. 

Rootstech has a wonderful collection of webinars from their annual conferences. There are sessions available from 2019, 2018, and 2017, including these from February/March 2019:

Examining Your DNA Matches with DNA Painter - Johnny Perl
Connecting Your DNA Matches - Diahan Southard
Essential Considerations for DNA Evidence - Blaine Bettinger

Youtube has many DNA videos available on a variety of DNA topics. I used the search terms "genealogy" and "DNA" and there were many available. Look for well-known DNA experts as the presenter as there are probably many that aren't as valuable for learning.

The Association of Professional Genealogists has a members-only area with videos from well-known experts. There are a few discussing DNA but most are somewhat older, 2012 - 2013 and only two from 2018.

Minnesota Genealogical Society also has a members-only area with videos archived. There are a few discussing DNA.

If you want to learn about the basic science of genetics behind DNA for genealogy, the University of Utah has some videos here.

And as mentioned in the previous blog post, DNA Central has some great videos for learning. It does require a subscription but there are other resources beyond videos as well.

Does your state or local genealogical society archive videos for members to view later? There are many more out there than I could possibly list!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Preparing for GRIP 2019: Part 1

I’m very excited to be registered for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburg (GRIP) course “Advanced DNA Evidence” coordinated by Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D. The course runs from June 24 through June 28, 2019. I’m looking forward to being part of the class and learning from the instructors and other class members.

In January of 2018, I attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) "Establishing Genealogical Proof with DNA” course coordinated by Karen Stanbary. I’ve been reviewing my notes on preparation for that class and have created my own list for the GRIP course. I want to be sure that I have reviewed everything I’ve covered in previous courses so that I am properly prepared.

This and the next few blog posts will cover some of the resources that I am planning to use over the next few months to prepare for the class.

In the course description, there are several prerequisites listed. Most were also prerequisites for the 2018 SLIG course so these will be reviews. I’ve added to them my own list of resources that I am planning on using to these prerequisites in order to prepare for the course.

Reading material to review:

  • The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy  (Blaine T. Bettinger)
  • Genetic Genealogy in Practice (Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne); also must successfully complete the activities

Webinars were not listed as prerequisites but I find them very helpful in “cementing” the concepts needed for understanding the uses of DNA in genealogy.

Webinars to watch or review:
There are already 70 webinars with the subject “DNA” at Legacy Family Tree Webinars.  Over 20 of them are free without a subscription. You need a subscription to view the remaining webinars, but the subscription is very reasonably priced. And there are 20 additional DNA webinars scheduled for the remainder of 2019. I plan to view as many as possible but I will start with these for review:

Blaine Bettinger has also created a new DNA resource area, DNA Central, using a subscription model. There are a wide variety of resources available, including courses and webinars. Courses include an introductory course for DNA testing at each of the “Big Five” DNA testing companies: Ancestry, MyHeritage, LivingDNA, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA. There are also webinars on a variety of DNA topics available from a variety of presenters. DNA Central has a resource page which has links to some additional webinars, podcasts, blogs, third-party tools and more. 

Reading the books, completing the exercises and reviewing the webinars should keep me busy for the next few months!