Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA

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DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy

If I had a dollar for every time I get asked a flavor of this question, I’d be on a cruise someplace warm instead of writing this in the still-blustery cold winter weather of the northlands!

So, I’m going to write the recipe of how to do this.  The process is basically the same whether you’re utilizing Y or mitochondrial DNA, but the details differ just a bit.

So, to answer the first question.  Can you find your Indian tribe utilizing DNA?  Yes, it can sometimes be done – but not for everyone, not all the time and not even for most people.  And it takes work on your part.  Furthermore, you may wind up disproving the Indian heritage in a particular line, not proving it.  If you’re still in, keep reading.

I want you to think of this as a scavenger hunt.  No one is going to give you the prize.  You…

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Ancestor Reconstruction

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DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy

No, this is not Jurassic Park and we’re not actually recreating or cloning our ancestors – just on paper.

Back in early 2012, I began to discuss the possibility of using chromosome mapping of descendants to virtually recreate ancestors.

In 2013, I wrote a white paper about how to do this, and circulated it among a group of scientists who I was hoping would take the ball and run, creating tools for genetic genealogists.  So far, that hasn’t happened, but what has happened is that I’ve adapted a tool created by Kitty Cooper for something entirely different than its original purpose to do a “proof of concept.”

Kitty Cooper created the Ancestor Chromosome Mapper to allow people to map the DNA contributed by different ancestors on their chromosomes.  It’s exciting to see your ancestors mapped out, in color, on your chromosomes.

I utilized Kitty’s tool, found here, to map the proven DNA of…

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Chromosome Mapping aka Ancestor Mapping

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DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy

This article really should be called “Identifying Prodigal Great-Grandpa by Ancestor Mapping Your Chromosomes,” because that’s what we’re going to be doing.  It’s fun to map your ancestors to your chromosomes, but there is also a purpose and benefit to be derived.  So you can have guilt-free fun because you’re being productive too!  Oh, and yes, you can work on finding Prodigal Great-Grandpa.

I constantly receive questions similar to this:

“How can I find the identity of my mother’s mother’s father?  My great-grandmother went to her grave with this secret.  That’s one eighth of my ancestry.  What can I do?  How can I find out?”

The answer is that it’s not easy, but it is sometimes possible.  Note the word sometimes.  A good part of the definition of “sometimes” is how willing you are to do the requisite work and if you are lucky or not.  Luck favors those who work hard. …

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One Chromosome, Two Sides, No Zipper – ICW and the Matrix

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DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy

ZipperThe questions I’ve received most often since the release of the new Family Finder Matrix from Family Tree DNA has to do with matches.  Specifically, what the “In Common With” feature is telling you versus what the Family Finder “Matrix” is telling you and how to utilize all of this information together.  At the bottom of this confusion is often a fundamental lack of understanding of how matching occurs and what it means in different contexts.

Let’s talk about this, step by step.

The “in common with” function (called triangulation for a few weeks, but now labeled “run common matches” ) shows you every person that you and one of your matches, match with in common.  I’ll be running this option for my matches with cousin David, shown below.

zipper 1

Here’s an example of my matches in common with my cousin, David.

Zipper 2

The Family Finder Matrix takes this information a…

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What is a DNA Scholarship and How Do I Get One?

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DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy

I mention DNA scholarships from time to time in my 52 Ancestor articles and sometimes in conjunction with other projects as well.

What, exactly, is a DNA scholarship? Who gets one?  How and why?

First, let’s talk a bit about the basics of how DNA works, because understanding that is fundamental to understanding why we have DNA scholarships in the first place, who qualifies and why. Not everyone has the DNA they need for testing specific genealogical lines – and scholarships are a way to obtain that information from others.  I think of it as a testing incentive to someone who is already interested at some level.

Every person can test their DNA, but each person carries a unique and very important type of DNA from just one or two very specific ancestors.

DNA for Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial

There are three kinds of DNA we can use for genealogy.

Mitochondrial DNA…

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We Match…But Are We Related?

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DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy

Last week, I received this question from a reader, we’ll call him Jim:

“I match Susie on the HVR1 and HVR2 regions of our mitochondrial DNA….but I was just wondering….are we related?’

Well, the answer is yes…and maybe.

You see, the answer hinges on the definition of the word “related.”

If Jim means related at any point in time, the answer is yes.  If Jim and Susie share the same haplogroup, at any level, then they did indeed share an ancestor at some point in the past. The question is – how long ago?  And that part of the answer isn’t easy.

Now, if what Jim means is related in the sense of “in a genealogically meaningful timeframe,” which is generally anytime from the present back in time roughly 500 or maybe as long as 800 years….the answer is a resounding maybe.

And of course, the answer differs a bit, depending on whether you’re…

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Mitochondrial DNA Mutation Rates and Common Ancestors

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DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy

One of the most common questions I receive about mitochondrial DNA is what matches with 1 or 2 differences, meaning mutations, mean relative to how long ago the two people are related.

And the answer, is, of course, “it depends.”  Don’t you just hate that.

First, it depends on whether you are referring to just the mutations in the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 regions, or the entire full sequence.  Clearly, the full sequence test provides the most refinement, because it tests the entire mitochondria, all 16569 locations, and compares them with others who take the full sequence test.

Family Tree DNA has this to say.

  • Matching on HVR1 means that you have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last fifty-two generations. That is about 1,300 years.
  • Matching on HVR1 and HVR2 means that you have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last twenty-eight…

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