Saturday, August 19, 2017

Genetic Genealogy Forums Online Etiquette Guide


Genetic genealogy forums online — Facebook groups; Anthrogenica; 23andMe community, etc — is the layperson's vast laboratory where we hash out our results, research, discoveries, journeys, family heirlooms, difficulties, disappointments and debates. It's a social place were we can obsess over DNA with lusty abandon. 

But sometimes a few bad apples spoil the whole experience. Some people's obtuse behavior in genetic genealogy forums online (GGFO) can be disruptive, offensive and lead to detriment and disaster. So in the interest of fostering better behavior, communication, cooperative collaboration, as well as a safe and objective environment to learn, teach and/or exchange knowledge, I came up with these 50 Golden GGFO etiquette rules (or suggestions), which is also available on the ISOGG Genetic Genealogy Mailing List: 

[King Genome's Tip: Download a copy (pdf) of Genetic Genealogy Standards and use together with this list.]

1. When you first join a GGFO, BEFORE YOU POST ANYTHING OR COMMENT you MUST take time to (a) read the forum's rules AND (b) review what others post, including topics and comments. If you're unsure of what to post then ask an administrator/moderator for assistance. If you don't agree with the rules of the forum then leave immediately. 

2. If you believe genetic genealogy is a fake science or you have no trust in DNA testing then please do us all a favor and remove yourself immediately. You should know that no matter what you believe, DNA is a real, evolving and advancing science and GGFO are designed to facilitate the progress.

3. Genetic genealogists and traditional genealogists should not wage a war with each other in a GGFO based on which method or field is better. Both are inextricably intertwined and should be used together — along with your collaborative efforts — for the best results.

4.  Absolutely NO political and religious badgering, soapboxing, hate-mongering, race baiting, trolling or any such capricious behavior. GGFO are unequivocally not the place for such discourse and banter. Go blow your steam off somewhere else.

5. Stop misusing socio-cultural ethnic labels and antiquated racial social constructs as genetic genealogy and population genetics terms for ethnicity. There is NO such thing as "African-American DNA" so avoid using the term. You should not be referring to African-Americans as Negroes except in a historic context. Also do not use Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid to make racial distinction between populations or ethnic groups. Yes, it is opprobrious. GGFO are not breeding grounds for racism, prejudice, bigotry miscegenation, superiority complexes, or ignorance. 

6. Never romanticize or minimize slavery, the Holocaust, Trail of Tears, or other horrific historic events because it's offensive. If you have a reasonable inquiry or discussion point around these events, be sure to carefully think about what you post before you hit that "Submit" button. 

7. If you're in a private, secret or closed GGFO, do NOT publicly share or post on social media other people's posts, photos, DNA results, comments or any personal information, etc, without that person's expressed permission  —  actually you shouldn't even ask. Private, secret or closed GGFO privacy settings are that way for a good reason. 

NEVER discuss living people's personal identifying information (ie name, address, city, birthday) within or outside of a GGFO. There are many crazy people and identity thieves lurking around, and we don't need you helping them out.

9. If someone reveals that he/she is an adoptee, foundling, foster child, donor, etc in a private, secret or closed GGFO, please refrain from revealing any of this information or "outing" the person publicly. Further if the this person posts information or photos about a non-biological relative, it's NOT up to you to discuss their relationship or adoption status, nor make any biological distinction between their relatives. It's tacky, spiteful and frankly none of your business.

10. If someone reveals that he/she is adopted or looking for a biological relative in a GGFO do not insert yourself into the situation by playing match-maker unless you're a qualified professional or search angel. Your heroic efforts may actually cause irreversible detriment to the situation.

11. If a GGFO member posts something about their new relatives/genetic matches, you must refrain from asking this GGFO member about contacting their new relative/genetic match, or to provide you with the relative/match's name, GEDmatch kit number, or any information that the GGFO member did not provide in the original post. Your overzealous behavior is meddlesome and could scare off people new to the world of genetic genealogy. 

12. Respect copyright, trademarks and ownership rights of images, content and resources when posting in a GGFO.  Give credit and recitation where necessary or as mandated by law for any content you post. You could get in a lot of legal trouble for infringing upon someone's ownership rights. 

13. Do not inundate GGFOs with a whole bunch of posts about yourself, your family, or your DNA results. Also don't make everyone else's topic about yourself, your family or your DNA results. Doing so makes you appear either rude, narcissistic or psychotic. The hard truth is people are usually tired of you, your family and your DNA results after you initially post about them. 
Also keep posts about your family, DNA results, photos, genetic relative matching information and related inquires confined to ONE topic. And while you're at it, do NOT highjack other people's threads by making totally irrelevant comments.

14. Do not join a GGFO with the expectation that its members or administrators will solve your mysteries, or act as a personal genetic genealogy servant for your every question. In general this behavior turns others off. No one is obligated to help you. 

15. Do NOT volunteer the services of those with genetic genealogy expertise nor refer people to them without first contacting them for availability via private or business e-mail. If you do refer someone please be sure their inquiry is clear, they provide any valid evidence to buttress their claims, and perhaps most importantly if the expert is available and charge fees. 

16. Do not attempt to chastise an administrator or moderator publicly. If you have any feedback or concerns about the GGFO or the way a GGFO is run, please send the administrator or moderator a private email or message. 

17. Make sure your questions and inquiries are well thought-out and expressed clearly. Do not write in a vague, nondescript or rhetorical manner. Think before you post dammit. 

18. Do NOT "shout-out"  members in a GGFO (ie tagging their name in a post)  especially administrators, moderators, possible relatives, genetic genealogists, scientific experts, etc. It comes across as demanding, pushy and rude. It's more proper to contact the person by private message or e-mail first. If you don't get a response then you must realize that some of these people are extremely busy. Just be prepared to get no response at all and to find your answers another way. 

19. If you post other people's DNA results in a GGFO, please REDACT the person's name, photo images, and GEDmatch kit number unless you have expressed permission to do otherwise by the owner of the results. You MUST respect people's privacy. 

20. If someone in a GGFO refers you to a valid study, blog or link, please take time to read the information before responding again, unless you've questions about the material. Otherwise you're really being unfair to everyone else, and people will soon be unwilling to help you. In genetic genealogy, reading and studying is fundamentally required. 

21. If you've expertise in a certain area of genetic genealogy, don't bring condescending, bullying, narcissistic and obnoxious attitudes into a GGFOs. Members could be at different levels of proficiency and expertise so please criticize constructively, and be aware of your tone. Otherwise people will eventually start ignoring you even if you're correct.

22. Do NOT pretend to be an expert in a GGFO or try to misapply expertise as your own, even if you have scientific expertise in another field. Do NOT borrow people's information posted anywhere and claim it as your own. The genetic genealogy experts have been at this for a long time, and they KNOW when you're pretending to be something that you're not. Everyone starts somewhere and works up from there. Pay your dues!

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty Releases

August 1, 2017, renowned, award-winning culinary historian & chef Michael Twitty's memoir, THE COOKING GENE (HarperCollins), released to the world. His work explores historic African and African-American culinary traditions, intertwining with it his own personal genetic ancestry story. 

I'm proud to report that Michael Twitty allowed me to interpret his family's DNA results and am thus featured in his amazing testimony (see sample below from Chapter 8, pg. 131-132):

THE COOKING GENE  has garnered Michael Twitty even more national attention, with great reviews by New York Times, Economist, Washington Post, etc. He has an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, and has been featured frequently on TV shows (Bazaar Foods), news programs, as well as old plantations (including Colonial Williamsburg).

Please join me in supporting the enigmatic Michael Twitty by purchasing your copy of  THE COOKING GENE  today. And you get to read the rest of our conversation!!! ... Available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKindle, etc. 

Sizzling Summer DNA Kit Sales

August 2017 — Summer is in full swing here in the U.S.A. and sizzling hot DNA kits sales are back by AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA. I will update this blog as new summer sales occur so check back often.  ... But now is a good time to stack up 'em up like pancakes. 

(1) AncestryDNA announced it has largest consumer DNA database with now 5 MILLION customers. In honor of this major milestone, they're celebrating with 30% off AncestryDNA kits thru August 15! That's $69 (excluding taxes and shipping). 

TIP: If order using this AncestryDNA Link it will benefit the Kits For Kindness program sponsored by Facebook group DNA Detectives

(2) FamilyTreeDNA heats up Summer 2017 with it's Friends & Family Sale, featuring scorching hot price reductions on new tests, add-ons and upgrades. And the Big Y is now only $395, the lowest it's ever been. So now's the time to stock the genetic genealogy chests chock full of tests now. And if you're a male and been waiting to take the Big-Y now'ss the time to do it. Well actually you have from August 1 until August 31, 2017Here is the menu (and you can order here):

Saturday, June 3, 2017

AncestryDNA Fathers Day Sale

AncestryDNA is having a Fathers Day Sale ... 20% off (or $79) thru June 18, 2017 ...

More good news: I've joined AncestryDNA's affiliate sales program! So if you purchase your kits using the banner above or the link below I will get a small commission. NOTE: the banner above will go to your AncestryDNA's country of origin so for U.S. customers it is still 20% off of $99 = $79.

You can also purchase your kits using this link: AncestryDNA Father's Day Savings

Thanks so much for your support.

Monday, May 22, 2017

23andMe MtDNA Haplogroup report gets facelift

Just when I was beginning to get thirsty for something, anything, new, upgraded and/or exciting in DTC DNA testing product features, I logged onto my 23andMe account this evening and spotted a "new report" for my Maternal Haplogroup. Did 23andMe finally update its antiquated genomic build for maternal haplogroup assignments?

I liked the old-version format of 23andMe for haplogroups  the haplogroup assignments for all shares were arranged on two separate pages (one for mtDNA and one for Y-DNA); we could conveniently see the haplogroup assignments of our DNA relatives next to their names, and we could easily find 23andMe online forum topics related to our haplogroups. 

This "new" report is yet another 23andMe attempt to reorganize the way our information is displayed  like its other recent offerings (see my "Explore Your DNA Family" blog here). It's much more visually stimulating than the last 23andMe haplogroup report but offers nothing substantive. Essentially a mirage. I'm still thirsty. But take a look anyways:

The next few screenshots show the migration timeline of my maternal haplogroup:
By clicking on the "L1" tab (left) shows another screen of my maternal haplogroup's probable migration route: 

There is another section featuring a historic highlight about how my maternal haplogroup migrated along with the Bantu Expansion: 
The last section shows an illustration explaining the genetics of Maternal Haplgroups (and course you can click on the "Scientific Details" tab at the top of the page to see more information):
By clicking on the tabs to the left reveals two more screenshots: 

Of course I'd much rather 23andMe work on: 
  • updating its Ancestry Composition tool and Haplogroup predictions, including the outdated genomic build platforms (23andMe is on Build 7 while Build 17 was released February 2016), and really all DNA companies should be offering full mitochondrial sequence tests only; 
  • restoring our ability to see the Chromosome Paintings of people with whom we're sharing;
  • implementing an in-house family tree utility; 
  • adding an "Ethnicity" segment element to the chromosome browser/mapper tool where customers can see displayed the location, size AND ethnicity(s) of shared DNA segments. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

23andMe new Explore Your DNA Family coming soon

On or about April 24, 2017, DTC personal genome company 23andMe began advertising yet another "ancestry tool, "Explore Your DNA Family," scheduled to be released in near future. The new announcement is on the  23andMe products/ services page (which you can view here). Currently there's no timetable on the tool's release but it's "Coming Soon" according to 23andMe. New testers will reportedly receive the feature with their results, and I assume the rest of us will be updated shortly thereafter. [See new **UPDATE APRIL 28, 2017 below.]

23andMe's "Explore Your DNA Family" apparently allows customers to see an anonymous list of their genetic relatives (who also tested at 23andMe) plotted on a map of regional origins. According to 23andMe, the tool encourages users to Opt-In to DNA Relatives (the actual list of your genetic matches) to fully explore the ancestry shared with their "genetic family." This new tool has the potential to be extremely helpful for adoptees and those looking to find and/or piece together their biological genealogy.

The only two graphics shown so far are the first (above) and last screen-shots utilized for this blog. I can't really glean anything from them in terms of functionality of the new tool; supposedly there was a blog post but 23andMe allegedly removed it.

At this time it's unclear if "Explore Your DNA Family" will entice 23andMe's customers to join DNA Relatives. It has been problematic wooing them in the past because 23andme's rather cumbersome invitation system requires customers to Opt-In to participate in DNA Relatives; a sizable portion of 23andMe's customers are primarily interested in health, and customers with a strong interest in genetic ancestry rarely take the extra effort to invite relatives to share test results or to contact them for any reason.

Even now with DNA Relative's "Open Sharing" feature — 23andMe testers can automatically see and compare their genetic ancestry reports and overlapping DNA segments with all of their DNA relatives (read more at here) — customers rarely take advantage of it. Perhaps customers participating in Open Sharing will be shown in an  "Explore Your DNA Family" display of matches. [See new **UPDATE APRIL 28, 2017 below.]

Of course I'd much rather 23andMe work on: 
  • updating its Ancestry Composition tool and Haplogroup predictions, including the outdated genomic build platforms (23andMe is on build 7 while Build 17 was released February 2016); 
  • restoring our ability to see the Chromosome Paintings of people with whom we're sharing;
  • implementing an in-house family tree utility; 
  • adding an "Ethnicity" segment element to the chromosome browser/mapper tool where customers can see displayed the location, size AND ethnicity(s) of shared DNA segments. ...  For example: bring back or incorporate the outstanding Countries of Ancestry (CoA) tool, but just limit the customer's view to the DNA Relatives with whom they are sharing; previously we could see the CoA's of all our relatives and any 23andMe customer sharing profiles with us. Here's a screen-shot of the now retired CoA tool:

**UPDATE APRIL 28, 2017
From the 23andMe's Forum Moderator: 
Hi everyone,

As some of you have noticed, we’ve released a new report, Your DNA Family, to a small number of customers. Those of you who do not yet have access to this feature will see it under the Reports tab in your account shortly - I’ll post an update once everyone can view their DNA Family report. 

Using Your DNA Family, you can see:
- Where your relatives are located around the world.

- How many of your relatives have ancestry from a particular region. For customers who had results on the old website experience, this is similar information to what was shown in Countries of Ancestry.

- See what traits your relatives are likely to exhibit compared to other 23andMe customers. 

Let's see what the future holds...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Your AncestryDNA Range Score

Sometimes a grain of salt can turn out to be a granule of sugar. When a lot of you receive your AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate results, you instantly take the percentages you see displayed at face value.

Too often this leads to disappointment especially if the percentages of certain a genetic ethnicity or biogeographical region is lower than expected, absent or inconsistent with your test results from other sources. There are even situations where one parent is the sole contributor of a certain ethnicity, but somehow the child's results show a higher amount than the contributing parent!

What if I told you that you were looking at your AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate all wrong?

I was actually surprised by the number of AncestryDNA testers who never realized the Ethnicity Estimate percentages they see displayed are NOT set in stone, including some regions for which they received 0% (zero percent). How is this possible?

What you're really "looking at" is an AVERAGE SCORE that was calculated from a broader RANGE SCORE, the latter of which may reveal the presence of ethnicity admixture you thought was missing. In this blog I'm going to discuss AncestryDNA's Ethnicity Estimate:

(1) Average Score;
(2) Range Score;
(3) How the Range Score is Calculatedand for you ethnicity admixture geeks,
(4) Brief Comparison Between My Two AncestryDNA Kits.

For this lesson I will present my two AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate results: Kit 1 (2012) and Kit 2 (2014). I will focus on West African (Nigerian), Native American and European Jewish (Ashkenazi) admixture, all of which was previously detected in my genomic data by other DNA companies, third-party utilities, and independent Biogeographical Ancestry analyses.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

23andMe FREE African Genetics Project

23andMe blog screenshot 
Dear African Brothers & Sisters,

You're in a pivotal and unique position to help your African-American relatives (including myself) learn about their Motherland roots, and to help understand more about where the descendants of your ancestors branched out in the Americas; a net-net gain. So if you're of recent African descent and currently reside in the United States, I humbly request you consider participating in the 23andMe African Genetics Project. If you qualify (see full eligibility requirements below), then you will receive a FREE 23andMe ancestry & health kit, and much more (value: $199). 

The 23andMe African Genetics Project kicked off October 16, 2016, and is the direct-to-consumer DNA company's continuing efforts to understand genetics of the Africa diaspora. Past efforts have included the African Ancestry Project and Roots Into the Future, which tested 10,000 African-Americans for free. I've actually received most of my genetic African matches(Fula-Guinea, Douala-Cameroon, Igbo-Nigeria, Merina-Madagascar) at 23andMe, but I had to pay ... it was totally worth it. (Read my 23andMe review here.) 

Once you sign up for 23andMe African Genetics Project and meet eligibility requirements  all four grandparents must be born in the same African region or from same ethnic/tribal group within certain countries  and submit your saliva sample, then you will receive ancestry (ie ethnicity composition breakdown, haplogroup assignments) and health reports, as well as a list of real genetic relatives from Africa and abroad. You may also be asked to be included in 23andMe's African reference population panel, which sorely needs more people like you who KNOW their roots. Of course the 23andMe test can help you build your own personal genealogical pedigree, too.

I highly recommend joining 23andMe African Genetics Project. Remember it's FREE of charge. JOIN NOW HERE

In order to be eligible, you:
  • must reside in the U.S., 
  • be 18 years or older,
  • have internet access,
  • speak and write English fluently,  
  • have all four of your grandparents were born in the same African country or come from the same ethnic or tribal group within one of the following countries: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Cote d'Ivore, Liberia, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sudan and Togo.(NOTE: West African countries such as Nigeria were covered in the first phase of this project.)
23andMe blog screenshot 
Please note that you control your data and all of your information is secure. No blood tests or trips to the testing lab is required; it's a saliva (aka spit) test. Of course you should read the fine print (ie terms of service) and ask questions if you must by contacting 23andMe. I, and many of 23andMe's 1.5 million testers, can vouch that this company is notorious for protecting the privacy of its customers. 

The whole process takes about 20 minutes in total. You will be asked to send in your saliva sample and complete a 15 minute service about your family's origins: 

23andMe blog screenshot 
This is what the start of the survey looks like: 
23andMe blog screenshot 

As you can see below, 23andMe had a number of initiatives geared toward Africans and African-Americans:

23andMe blog screenshot

Don't delay, participate in the
 23andMe African Genetics Project TODAY HERE

Monday, February 20, 2017

FTDNA Exciting New Autosomal Transfer Program

FamiltyTreeDNA screen-grab

Genealogical DNA testing is coming full circle now with the great news offered by
FamilyTreeDNA. You can now transfer most versions of your 23andMe and AncestryDNA autosomal results (raw data) to FamilyTreeDNA and receive genetic matches for free as well as full access to FamilyTreeDNA's tools for only $19. And finally a FamilyTreeDNA  myOrigins ethnicity admixture update is imminent! 

This is exciting news because customers traditionally testing at one of the other major DTC DNA services (23andMe, AncestryDNA) will now be able to enjoy the sweet fruits of FamilyTreeDNA, which has long been considered the best site for serious genetic genealogists. Collaterally at present FamilyTreeDNA seems to have the lowest amount of African-descended and diaspora DNA testers resulting in a more tepid experience for them, but I expect that to drastically change for the better with this new transfer program. 

I'm going to share with you the email I received on February 16, 2017, from FamilyTreeDNA below (emphasis in bold and additional commentary in red added by me). After you finish indulging I highly recommend you transfer your other test results to FamilyTreeDNA's new Autosomal Program here. Enjoy: 
  • Customers can now transfer 23andMe© V4 and AncestryDNA™ V2 files in addition to the 23andMe© V3 and AncestryDNA™ V1 files that FamilyTreeDNA accepted previously. MyHeritage and Genographic transfers will be supported in the coming weeks.
  • FamilyTreeDNA still does not accept 23andMe© processed prior to November 2010. A Family Finder test will need to be purchased.
  • 23andMe© V3 and AncestryDNA™ V1 now receive a full list of matches and the ability to use the Matrix feature FOR FREE. For only $19, the customer can unlock the Chromosome Browser, myOrigins, and ancientOrigins. This is the best value yet. 
  • 23andMe© V4 and AncestryDNA™ V2 receive all but the most speculative matches (6th to remote cousins), also for free. After transferring, if the customer wants to receive speculative matches, they will have to submit a sample and have a Family Finder run at the reduced price of $59. NOTE: 23andMe customers who tested after November 2013 are on V4, and AncestryDNA customers who tested after May 2016 are on V2. In my opinion it's very generous of FTDNA to provide all but 6th to remote cousins (that's up to 5th cousins) for respective V4 and V2 customers who don't want to provide a new sample and pay the reduced price of $59 (or $20 off regular Family Finder), and a nice savings for customers who prize those solid distant matches. 
  • Matches should take somewhere between one and 24 hours to appear, depending on the volume of tests in the autosomal pipeline.
  • myOrigins update will be released in the coming weeks. Until then transfers will include only broad populations. FTDNA previously announced back in November 2015 that a myOrigins update was going to be released first quarter of 2016; see my blog here. Maybe it was a misprint. At any rate this is great news. 
  • Additionally, all previously transferred files that have not been unlocked will receive their matches and have access to the Matrix feature for free as long as the release form is signed. These kits will be also be able to unlock the other Family Finder features for $19. If the transfer was on a kit with another product where the release form has already been signed, then the matches will appear with no further action necessary.
  • The Autosomal Transfer webpage has been enhanced to include a new image and a FAQ section. The FAQ section is displayed towards the bottom of the page. You should look at the FAQ section first before you flood online forums with questions.

  • If a customer tries to transfer the same autosomal file a second time, a message will be displayed that the file is a duplicate and will list the kit number of the original kit. So please don't inundate the FTDNA transfer program with duplicate results. It is far better to test and transfer more family members. 


Friday, February 3, 2017

23andMe Sweetheart SALE

Yes it's true, genealogical DNA testing company 23andMe is now offering $20 off of kits thru February 14, 2017 Valentines Day --- that $79 for it's ancestry-only service and $179 for ancestry and health service. This is so sweet because 23andMe very rarely goes on sale. You can for order here. 

You can also read my reviews on 23andme here and here

Happy Testing!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A00 Cameroon Research Project and Albert Perry's Y

Dear Friends,

Please join me in supporting the groundbreaking efforts of the A00 Cameroon Research Project, which seeks to continue DNA sample collection from special indigenous populations in the Cameroon region. Headed by a fantastic group of citizen scientists, including renowned genetic genealogist Bonnie Schrack (who I've come to know), Cameroonian historian Dr. Matthew Forka, and YSeq founders Thomas & Astrid Khran, the team helped identify Y-DNA haplogroup A00, which is the most basal Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup yet discovered — first in an African-American male from South Carolina, and then in tribesmen of western Cameroon. This is one of those discoveries "that could rewrite long-held theories about the evolution of modern humans." Yet it's an independent scientific effort. As such the A00 Cameroon Research Project has launched another fundraiser to help Dr. Forka on his last major field trip this year to collect 200 DNA samples from the indigenous Bakola and Baka peoples. 

I'm going to tell you more about this wonderful grassroots endeavor, but as soon as you're done please consider helping the A00 Cameroon Research Project.

As an African-American male with ancestral roots in both South Carolina (where Y-DNA haplogroup A00 was first discovered) and Cameroon (including two genetic relatives from the Duala people), as well as my largest AncestryDNA ethnicity admixture component assigned "Cameroon" (up to 40% ), I'm PROUD to support this game-changing research! 

So why is the A00 Cameroon Research Project critically important and so worth your support?  
  • Y-DNA haplogroup A00 represents the oldest branch of human males in history and finding a divergent branch of A00 (or maybe even a more basal haplogroup) would allow a better determination of the age (currently @ 192,000 to 307,000 years old) and origins of A00
  • This discovery added a completely new branch to Y-DNA family and changed what scientists knew about human existence. 
  • It expands our knowledge about evolutionary genetics, human genetic diversity, Y-chromosome phylogeny.
  • A00 Cameroon Research Project is run by Citizen Scientists — they don't have big budgets, corporate/academic sponsors or grants to rely upon so they depend on crowd-sourcing, fundraising and generous donations from private folk such as yourself.  
  • Very few genetic studies focus on indigenous African and diaspora populations so we should at least support those that do. In addition to evolutionary genetics, we begin to unravel the specific ancestral connections between Africa and her diaspora, especially in the Americas. 
  • Today's Africans are in a unique position to help African-descendants in the Americas unravel the tangled roots caused by the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. 
    The Story of Perry's Y

    Friday, January 13, 2017

    New 23andMe Ancestry Timeline Tool

    I logged in to my 23andMe account today and learned of a new [BETA] tool has been added to our ancestry reports. Described as an Admixture Date Estimator and aptly titled, "Your Ancestry Timeline," the feature estimates when your ancestor with 100% of a singular ethnicity (ie West African) might have existed. Notably this is the second such feature that has been added to our Ancestry Reports; the first was the ability to download our Ancestry Composition "ethnicity" segment data (see blogs by Kitty Munson Cooper and Roberta Estes). At present it's unclear if 23andMe has rolled out "Your Ancestry Timeline" to all customers. I will tell you my opinion at the close of this short blog but let met introduce you to the feature first:

    (1) After you log into into your 23andMe account, click on your Ancestry Reports and then Ancestry Composition. Next scroll down and (if you have it) you will see "Your Ancestry Timeline" located right under your "Ancestry Composition" results. At the top of the feature you will see a horizontal list of circled numbers, which represents a generation. Immediately below this are corresponding dates at 30-year intervals (30 years = 1 generation) and presumably driven by the birth date you listed on your 23andme account --- for me Generation 1 starts at 1940 and goes back to Generation 8(+) at the year 1700. Below this you will see colorful modules, each one representing an ethnicity component present in your Ancestry Composition results --- each module is of a different length based upon the time and generation range your proposed ancestor with 100% of a certain admixture (ie West African) might have actually existed.  It looks like this:

    (2) Next click on any of the ethnicity modules, a pop-up box will open showing the probable time when your ancestor with 100% of a singular admixture lived. I clicked on the RED module "West African" as seen here:

    The pop-up box shows: "You most likely had a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent who was 100% African. This person was likely born between 1880 and 1940." 

    (3) To learn how the new feature works, you should (actually MUST) click on the blue link "Learn more about how to interpret this result" (located underneath the feature's ethnicity tabs) It includes a link to the 23andMe Admixture Date Estimator White Paper which goes into the "logic" and "science" behind the new feature.  The blue link reveals the following information: 

    My Opinion

    I like the 23andMe new Admixture Date Estimator ("Your Ancestry Timeline") feature because I use these sort  of statistical inheritance predictions when I analyze people's ethnicity admixture results. However my immediate impression is a lot of people will be confused and misinterpreting the information. To this point, the Admixture Date Estimator White Paper states the feature will "enable customers to find out, for each of the ancestries they carry, when they may have had an ancestor in their genealogy who was likely to be a non-admixed representative of that population." This is because genetic inheritance is much more complicated and ... well there has been very few ethnically "pure" or non-admixed populations in modern history. The population structure of most ethnic groups includes ancestry from "outside" groups. Also based on random genetic recombination we inherit any of our parents admixture in DNA chunks of varying sizes, with some of those DNA chunks remaining intact over several generations. This is problematic because the feature assumes a singular admixture component from one ancestor/ancestral event. Further note this estimator does not include your X-chromosome(s) in its calculations. 

    Now I'm African-American, which means my admixture profile is going to be complex and colorful. I know that my West African admixture @ 78% comes from both of my parents and all of my grandparents in various amounts; this new feature automatically assumes my West African inheritance comes just one parent. In fact I descend from numerous indigenous populations living in western and other African subregions that entered my bloodline at different times and places in my genetic history. Further my results were phased with a parent and I've received "West African" from both of them in varying amounts. Therefore it is highly unlikely I had "a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent who was 100% West African that was born between 1880 and 1940." Or what if like me, you have Malagasy ancestry and you show a small Southeast Asian percentage @ 0.9%? Well Malagasy populations have been admixed with Asian and African for thousands of years so even if this Southeast Asian came one predicted ancestor he or she may not have been 100% Southeast Asian for a very long time. And what if you have Southeast Asian ancestry from both parents? 

    Buried in the white paper (which most customers won't bother reading) states, "The admixture date provided is based on the ancestry segments estimated by Ancestry Composition, and is, consequently, dependent on their accuracy and specificity for accurate date estimation. Any genealogical history or ancestries that are not well captured by Ancestry Composition estimates may result in poor admixture date estimation, which typically results in older estimated dates of admixture. Secondly, the admixture date is based on all segments of a particular ancestry. If multiple genealogical ancestors contributed independently, the admixture date may reflect these multiple ancestors in a complex way. If many segments, from independent ancestors, recombine to form longer segments, the estimated admixture date may be shifted towards a more recent date. This is especially likely in the case when segments cover over 50% of a genome. On the other hand, if many older genealogical ancestors contribute discrete, shorter segments, the estimated admixture date may be pushed back, reflecting a weighted average over the multiple ancestors’ generations. Lastly, it is important to note that the inheritance of segments in one genome from a genealogical ancestor is a highly stochastic process, resulting in overlapping inheritance patterns that are not distinguishable the further back in time you go, even under otherwise ideal conditions. Thus, some amount of uncertainty is inherent in the data, so we present admixture date results in bins that allow for some of this inherent randomness." 

    In my optimistic opinion these admixture date predictions may work better with people from more homogenous populations ("West Africa" is not one of them), or with smaller distinguished admixture amounts (ie Native American) that can be attributed to one ancestor (ie Choctaw grandmother) or ancestral couple.  Of course I'd much rather 23andMe work on improving/updating its Ancestry Composition (West Africa is a much too broad category) and Haplogroup predictions, including the build platform; restoring our ability to see the chromosome paintings of the people we're sharing with; implementing an in-house family tree utility, as well as expanding its fantastic In Common With/triangulation tool to include all of our DNA relatives. I would also like to see an ethnicity element added to 23andMe's chromosome browser/mapper tool where customers can see the location, size and ethnicity(s) of the shared segments displayed.