The Slippery Slope of DNA Testing

The Slippery Slope of DNA Testing

I first read about 23andMe offering a DNA test (v1) in 2007. I was interested in knowing more about my genetics for health reasons but the $999 price tag was way beyond my budget. In Sept. 2008 they dropped their price to $399 and increased the number of genealogical SNPs (v2) that they tested. That was still too pricey, but it got me to thinking about using DNA testing for genealogy research. In May 2009 they dropped the price to $299. Still too expensive. In 2010 they added a $40 subscription fee for updated health reports (and updated their test again to v3****) but in mid-2012 they dropped that extra fee. Still, I couldn’t pull the trigger on the purchase and by this time I was really itching to do some DNA genealogy.

On Sept. 6, 2012 I received an invitation to order the new AncestryDNA test for $99. That was a price that I could talk myself into. So I ordered it and I received my results 5 weeks later only to be confused by their ethnicity estimate which said I was 100% British Isles*****. Where did my German and Dutch go?! On Dec. 11, 2012 23andMe dropped their price to $99. Obviously I needed a second opinion regarding my German/Dutch ancestry. And down the slippery slope I went.

  • Jan. 4, 2013 – Registered for “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” at Coursera.org
  • Jan. 30, 2013 – 23andMe results
  • Jan. 31, 2013 – Promethease.com health report for AncestryDNA results
  • Feb. 8, 2013 – Uploaded 23andMe and AncestryDNA results to GEDMatch.com
  • Feb. 12, 2013 – FTDNA Y-DNA67 results
  • Feb. 15, 2013 – FTDNA Y-DNA111 test ordered
  • Feb. 15, 2013 – National Geographic Geno 2.0 autosomal test ordered
  • Feb. 15, 2013 – National Geographic Geno 2.0 transfer to FTDNA ordered
  • Apr. 12, 2013 – FTDNA Y-DNA111 results
  • Apr. 12. 2013 – Uploaded Y-DNA-111 results to Y-search.org
  • Apr. 16, 2013 – Passed “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution“, earned 2 Bio credits (Duke)
  • Apr. 22, 2013 – FTDNA Full Sequence mtDNA test ordered
  • May 7, 2013 – FTDNA Full Sequence mtDNA results
  • May 7, 2013 – Uploaded mtDNA results (FASTA file) to mitosearch.org
  • May 31, 2013 – National Geographic Geno 2.0 results
  • June 23, 2013 – Registered for “Computational Molecular Evolution” at Coursera.org
  • Sep. 9, 2013 – Passed “Computational Molecular Evolution”
  • Apr. 28, 2014 – National Geographic Geno 2.0 transfer to FTDNA complete
  • Dec. 25, 2014 – FTDNA SNP S21184 ordered
  • Feb. 25, 2015 – FTDNA SNP S21184 result
  • Jul. 29, 2015 – FTDNA R1b-M343 Backbone SNP Pack ordered
  • Aug. 20, 2015 – FTDNA R1b-M343 Backbone SNP Pack results
  • Nov. 28, 2015 – Submitted mtDNA results (FASTA file) to GenBank
  • Dec. 27, 2015 – FTDNA Big Y ordered
  • Jan. 31, 2016 – Promethease.com health report for AncestryDNA/23andMe/FTDNA
  • Feb. 20, 2016 – FTDNA Big Y results
  • Feb. 24, 2016 – Uploaded Big Y results (BAM file) to The Big Tree
  • Mar. 2, 2016 – Reply from Savannah McCarthy’s confirming relationship*
  • Mar. 10, 2016 – Reply from 3rd cousin on Connor line confirming relationship**
  • Apr. 13, 2016 – Yfull.com analysis of Big Y ordered
  • May 20, 2016 – Yfull.com analysis of Big Y received
  • Aug. 30, 2016 – Registered for “Introduction to Bioinformatics Programming” at Conn. College
  • Sep. 18, 2016 – Reply from 4th cousin on Denn line confirming relationship***
  • Nov. 14, 2016 – Created an account at MyHeritage
  • Nov. 28, 2016 – Genes for Good autosomal test ordered
  • Nov. 25, 2016 – Seeq.io autosomal and microbiome test ordered
  • Nov. 27, 2016 – DNA.land upload of 23andMe raw data
  • Dec. 10, 2016 – DNA.land results
  • Dec. 12, 2016 – Successfully completed “Introduction to Bioinformatics Programming”
  • Jan. 26, 2017 – Genes for Good results
  • Feb. 12, 2017  – Seeq.io results
  • Feb. 14, 2017 – Uploaded 23andMe results to MyHeritage

That’s just the stuff that I’ve done myself. I didn’t list the tests that I’ve bought for others – 10 AncestryDNA kits (one currently being processed), six 23andMe kits (all college graduation presents), and three FTDNA Y-DNA37 tests, one FTDNA autosomal/Family Finder test (not yet submitted), and 14 autosomal DNA transfers of results from other services to FTDNA. All of these autosomal tests have been uploaded to GEDMatch.com where I now have 24 kits, 4 Lazarus kits, and phased kits for 4 of my nieces.

What have I learned from all of this?

  • Thanks to 23andMe I found my maternal great-grandmother’s McCarthy family’s descendants (my 3rd cousins). The last contact my family had with them was when my maternal grandfather Charles H. Connor, who had been living with his grandmother Catherine McCarthy for 10 years after his mother’s death, left Savannah to return to Boston to finish high school in 1915. I’ve been looking for them since my aunt suggested 17 years ago that that should be my #1 genealogy goal. Her father had told her many stories about growing up in Savannah and she always wanted to know more about them.
  • ** Thanks to AncestryDNA I learned that my mother’s paternal grandfather Charles P. Connor had a younger brother Jeremiah who had had 10 children. Turns out I’ve got a bunch of 3rd cousins on my Connor line, most still in the Boston area.
  • *** Thanks to GEDMatch I discovered a connection with William Denn who turned out to be a 4th cousin which confirmed my suspicion that the other Denn families in Albany, NY in the mid-1800s were my 2nd-great-grandfather Nicholas Denn’s siblings .
  • Thanks to my Y-DNA test and my Dreimiller Surname Project I now know that I’ve got a common ancestor sometime in the last 200 years or so with the Dreimüllers/Dreymüllers that I’ve contacted in Germany who have also done a Y-DNA test. I was also able to connect a Dreymüller in Germany with Dreymillers in Wisconsin and Illinois who are 2nd cousins.
  • Thanks to all of my tests I’ve been able to use the Lazarus tool at GEDMatch to create virtual DNA profiles that are over 90% complete for my parents, both of whom passed away in 1999, as well as for both of my paternal uncles. These have helped me generate more accurate matches and to eliminate false matches.

Where does it all end? I don’t know. I’d like to upgrade Uncle Don’s Y-DNA test to 111 markers, there’s a new test from LivingDNA that I’d like to do, the cost for whole genome testing continues to drop, and the Seeq.io microbiome test has me interested in learning more about that. I remember running across my father’s extracted wisdom teeth when I was going through his stuff after he passed away. Maybe I can get that tested one of these days.

**** 23andMe updated their test again to v4 in Nov. 2013.

***** AncestryDNA has updated their ethnicity estimate algorithm since I first tested and they now report that my DNA is 47% from Ireland (Mom was 100% Irish back to her great-grandparents and Dad was 1/8th Irish), 30% from Europe West (there’s my German and Dutch!), and 22% from Scandinavia (I think this is from the Vikings who invaded Ireland).

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