14 November 2011

Talking to Family Tree DNA at the Family History Expo

     On the second day of the expo, during the third class session, mom and I visited the vendor booths.  I wanted to visit the Family Tree DNA booth when it wasn't being overrun by other attendees so that I could ask a few questions. Also, I heard they had a coupon :)

     I got to the booth just as the only other person there was leaving and picked up a flyer (sure enough: coupon).  The woman in the booth came over and greeted me, saying that she recognized me from blogging. She introduced herself as Elise Friedman and I immediately knew who she was. I've taken her webinars at RelativeRoots and learned a lot. If you are at all confused about DNA you should take her webinars! The introductory course is free and subsequent ones are only $10. Trust me, it's well worth the price.

     We sat down and talked and Elise was able to answer some questions and provide information on what's new at Family Tree DNA (much of which has already been reported in blog posts about the recent ftDNA conference).
  • I had been confused when I tested two of my mom's brother's at different companies and they came back in a tiny bit different. One was listed as R1b1a, etc and one was R1b1b, etc. Elise explained that this wasn't due to an error, but simply different versions of the Haplogroup Tree. Each company was using a different version of the tree. When there was a change in naming tree branches, one company updated their information and another didn't. This makes sense because the haplo tree is being updated all the time. Users don't want to log in and find a different haplogroup name every other month (or however often). What really matters are the markers. The uncle I tested with ftDNA is haplogroup R, U152+.  One company may call these results one name and the other may call it something else, but the markers remain the same (unfortunately 23andMe does not show these markers, a reason I prefer ftDNA)
  • In a few weeks (a month or two? I forget), 23andMe users will be able to upload their Autosomal test results to ftDNA for $50. Users will not be able to upload their Y-DNA or mtDNA.
  • There is a sale coming very soon, maybe this week. Elise wasn't sure what the prices would be, but it is coming.
  • We talked about pedigree collapse (see my previous post). I have a lot of it on my Dad's side due to colonial ancestry and Elise has it due to her Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. FtDNA is aware of the problems caused by pedigree collapse and is constantly working on updates to help with this.
  • I talked about how I would like to be able to compare my results directly with someone else who doesn't show up in my matches. It turns out Elise had suggested something like this to ftDNA already. The main holdup on something like this is privacy concerns.
  • Our personal pages at ftDNA will be updated soon - even as soon as this week. The new 2.0 version should roll out first to project admins (that includes me!) and will be much more user friendly. I'm not sure if this update is part of the new 2.0, but there will be a way to compare your  mtDNA, Y-DNA and FF matches against each other.
  • I talked about how I was trying to pick out my next DNA "volunteer" and which tests I had already had relatives take. Her main recommendation was to test the older family members first. You never know when you might loose a family member and the older generation have DNA that can often be more helpful. 
     I'm really glad that Family Tree DNA came to the Expo this year and I was able to talk to Elise. I'm also very grateful for the coupon. In fact, I've already used it.  I was brainstorming with my mom, trying to figure out whose DNA would be most helpful with my research. We came up with a few people, but nothing that struck me as "yes, I must buy a test immediately!"

Our Waters Cousin
DNA volunteer
     Out of the blue, mom asked "what about the Waters side of the family?" We have a male cousin who descends directly from my Great-Great Grandfather, Leverett Waters. Who was Leverett's father? Possibly John or James Waters; possibly from Cobb or Cherokee or Milton County, Georgia; possibly born around 1850; possibly the son of Elizabeth whose father was from England.  This is one of my earliest brick wall ancestors and I need something new to jumpstart this research.

     We hadn't spoken to these cousins in a while and had to track down a phone number. We called a female cousin who is involved in genealogy herself. After a few minutes of greetings she asked "have you found anything new about the Waters family?" Unfortunately we had to say no, but said that we'd like to try DNA. She quickly called her brother and he agreed to the test. We're all very excited that DNA might help us progress in our research.

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