Friday, November 17, 2017

LiveWello Review

LiveWello report explains how I have a decreased likelihood
of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease
LiveWello is a site where you can upload your raw DNA data from several testing companies including 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and FamilyTreeDNA and get reports on a number of health related issues. It costs $19.95 to upload your raw DNA data, but they also offer an additional subscription for $5.95 monthly or $60 yearly. But what all do you get with those different options?

With the $19.95 one time upload fee, you gain access to some reports from LiveWello which explain, in plain English, whether you have an increased, normal, or decreased risk of whatever the report is about. In addition, you have access to the "Gene Library" which is a huge library of different health reports created by third parties. It's very extensive, but the drawbacks are that it doesn't explain in plain English what your risks are, and it doesn't allow you to search for a certain type of report. All you can do is scroll through the list of available reports (listed in order that they are added, with no other way to sort them) and hope to find what you're looking for. The reports only provide the raw DNA and leaves the interpretation up to you, and that means you need some understanding of DNA and how genetic variance works. Many of the Gene Library reports don't even tell you what conditions are associated with the gene(s) it's reporting on, suggesting it's only really beneficial for academics or health care professionals.

Disappointing? A bit. For $19.95, you don't get much, and then they want you to pay even more. Compared to options like Promethease, which provides hundreds of reports for only $5 (one time fee), it seems like you're paying a lot more to get a lot less with LiveWello. In addition, note that although you can upload multiple kits to one account, the fees for LiveWello (both the one time upload fee and subscription) apply to each kit you want to upload. So, let's say you manage your kit, and both your parents kits - full access to LiveWello for all of you would cost about $60 in upload fees, and about $18 monthly. That starts to really add up.

Gene Variance report from "Gene Library" template doesn't
include any explanation of what the data means (increased,
decreased, or average risk)
With the subscription, you gain access to all reports provided by LiveWello, and they also claim you gain access to "all the features included in your gene variance report" (these are for the Gene Library), but I am unclear what this includes since my gene variance reports look exactly the same before and during the subscription. So although the Gene Library is extensive, for most people, it won't be of much use unless you are knowledgeable about gene variance and how they work.

With the one time fee, you get the following 28 reports (not including Gene Library):

1. COMT Gene and Sensitivity to Pain
2. Nexium, acid reflux disease and CYP2C19 drugs
3. Warfarin and CYP2C9 drugs
4. Plavix, blood thinners and CYP2C19 drugs
5. Response to diabetes medication - Sulfonylureas
6. Hepatitis C Treatment
7. Preference for sweet foods
8. Tramadol and CYP2D6 drugs
9. VDR Taq Gene and Osteoporosis
10. Lupus
11. Vitamin B12
12. MTHFR and Risk of Depression
13. COMT Gene and Personality Traits
14. Vitamin B6
15. Alcohol tolerance
16. Anti-depressant Response: Paxil, Celexa, Effexor or Elavil
17. Folate and the MTHFR gene
18. Caffeine and Anxiety
19. Kidney disease risk and MTHFS gene
20. Oxycodone and CYP2D6 drugs
21. Vitamin A
22. Hormone Replacement Therapy
23. Response to cholesterol lowering medication
24. Sexual Dysfunction due to Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft
25. Alcohol abuse and risk of esophageal cancer
26. Zofran and CYP2D6 drugs
27. MAOA - The Warrior gene
28. Metformin

With the additional subscription, you get 93 more reports (not including Gene Library):

1. Aspirin Allergy - Asthma Risk   (Subscription only)
2. Risk of Duodenal Ulcer   (Subscription only)
3. CYP Gene and Irregular Heart Rhythm   (Subscription only)
4. Genes Related to Manic Symptoms in Bipolar Disorder   (Subscription only)
5. COMT Gene and Irritable Bowel Syndrome   (Subscription only)
6. Histamine Gene and Sensitivity to NSAIDS (Aspirin, Alleve, Advil, Motrin)   (Subscription only)
7. Floxacillin Associated Liver Toxicity   (Subscription only)
8. Narcolepsy   (Subscription only)
9. Susceptibility to Both Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis   (Subscription only)
10. FUT2 Gene and the Gut Microbiome   (Subscription only)
11. Hot flashes in post menopausal women   (Subscription only)
12. Response to bupropion treatment for smoking cessation   (Subscription only)
13. Susceptibility to food poisoning caused by Norovirus   (Subscription only)
14. COMT Gene and Antipsychotics   (Subscription only)
15. G6PD Gene and Risk of Hemolysis with Bactrim   (Subscription only)
16. Methamphetamine and Risk of Psychosis   (Subscription only)
17. Painful Menstrual Period and BDNF Gene   (Subscription only)
18. COMT Gene and Response to Effexor   (Subscription only)
19. MTHFR Gene and Pravastatin Efficacy   (Subscription only)
20. Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis   (Subscription only)
21. Levofloxacin and Risk Of Seizures   (Subscription only)
22. Response to Treatment of Blood Pressure with Benazepril   (Subscription only)
23. Response to steroid treatment of Crohn's disease   (Subscription only)
24. COMT Gene and Tobacco Use Disorder   (Subscription only)
25. MTHFR Gene and risk of Stroke   (Subscription only)
26. Medication Overuse Headaches   (Subscription only)
27. Risk of Acute Psychosis with Cannabis   (Subscription only)
28. Processed Meat and Risk of Colorectal Cancer   (Subscription only)
29. Response to Vitamin E Supplementation   (Subscription only)
30. Fat and Obesity (FTO) Gene and Risk of Alzheimer's Disease   (Subscription only)
31. Cold Sores   (Subscription only)
32. APOE gene and Alzheimer disease risk   (Subscription only)
33. Risk of liver damage with Depakote (valproic acid)   (Subscription only)
34. Aspirin Allergy - Hives   (Subscription only)
35. Risk of Developing Multiple Sclerosis   (Subscription only)
36. Efficacy of Blood Pressure Medication, Norvasc   (Subscription only)
37. NOS Gene and Response to Viagra   (Subscription only)
38. APOE Gene, Cholesterol level and Diets   (Subscription only)
39. Vitamin D   (Subscription only)
40. Response to Carisoprodol (SOMA)   (Subscription only)
41. Heart Failure Treatment with Bidil   (Subscription only)
42. Breast Cancer Treatment   (Subscription only)
43. MTHFR, Homocysteine and Nitrous Oxide Anesthesia   (Subscription only)
44. Hormone Replacement Therapy, SULT1A Gene and Risk of Endometrial Cancer   (Subscription only)
45. Abacavir   (Subscription only)
46. Migraine response to vitamin supplementation   (Subscription only)
47. NTRK2 Gene and Lithium Efficacy   (Subscription only)
48. Smoking cessation with nicotine replacement therapy   (Subscription only)
49. GNB3 Gene and Antidepressant Toxicity   (Subscription only)
50. Response to Narcolepsy Drug - Modafinil   (Subscription only)
51. BDNF Gene and Depression - Response to Paxil   (Subscription only)
52. Tegretol Efficacy in Treatment of Seizures   (Subscription only)
53. NOS3 Gene and Response to Blood Pressure Medications   (Subscription only)
54. Phenytoin and CYP2C9 drugs   (Subscription only)
55. Heroin Addiction   (Subscription only)
56. SLC2A3 Gene and Dyslexia in Children   (Subscription only)
57. Sensitivity to Muscle Relaxants Used in General Anesthesia   (Subscription only)
58. APOE Gene and Exercise Response   (Subscription only)
59. General Anesthesia - postoperative nausea and vomiting   (Subscription only)
60. G6PD deficiency, risk of malaria and drug-induced hemolysis   (Subscription only)
61. STXBP5L Gene and Facial Aging   (Subscription only)
62. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity   (Subscription only)
63. MTHFR Gene and Smoking Behavior   (Subscription only)
64. Response to Ibuprofen (PTGS gene)   (Subscription only)
65. Fibromyalgia and Chronic Widespread Pain   (Subscription only)
66. MTHFR Gene and Migraine with Aura   (Subscription only)
67. MTHFR, Metformin and risk of blood clots   (Subscription only)
68. Tylenol and Risk Of Liver Failure   (Subscription only)
69. 5-fluorouracil   (Subscription only)
70. MTHFR Gene and Risk of Male Infertility   (Subscription only)
71. OPRM1 Gene and Opioid Antagonists   (Subscription only)
72. COMT, LRP2 Genes and Risk for Gout   (Subscription only)
73. Obesity risk   (Subscription only)
74. NSAIDS and Acute Coronary Syndrome risk   (Subscription only)
75. SSRI Antidepressants and CYP2C19 Gene   (Subscription only)
76. Susceptibility to Hypertension   (Subscription only)
77. Hypersensitivity to Mercury   (Subscription only)
78. Gluten intolerance genes   (Subscription only)
79. Choline - dietary requirement in premenopausal women   (Subscription only)
80. COMT Gene and Skeletal Muscle Decline in Older Women   (Subscription only)
81. Elite physical power and sprint performance   (Subscription only)
82. Omega-3 Fatty Acids   (Subscription only)
83. Susceptibility to Pregnancy-induced hypertension   (Subscription only)
84. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)   (Subscription only)
85. Naltrexone and Treatment of Alcoholism   (Subscription only)
86. Earwax and Body Odor   (Subscription only)
87. MTHFR gene and Diabetic Neuropathy   (Subscription only)
88. Risk of Cough with Blood Pressure Medication   (Subscription only)
89. Cluster Headaches and Response to Treatment   (Subscription only)
90. COMT Gene and Response to Opiods   (Subscription only)
91. Salt sensitivity   (Subscription only)
92. Risk of Severe Hypersensitivity to Tegretol   (Subscription only)
93. Genes Associated with Empathy   (Subscription only)

Not all reports are available depending on which company
you tested with
Another thing to factor in is the fact that if you uploaded your raw DNA data from AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, and possibly other companies, some of the reports may not be possible due to the necessary SNPs not being included. Not all testing companies include the same SNPs or the same amount of SNPs. FamilyTreeDNA in particular removes about 3,000 medically relevant SNPs. So you could wind up not even having access to all these reports even when you subscribe. With AncestryDNA, I noticed a number of reports were "incomplete because none of the SNPs in it were found in your raw data." And even if you have some of the SNPs necessary, if you don't have all of them, it still may not be able to generate the report and say you have "insufficient genotypes to determine response for" that report. These included but may not be limited to (and may vary depending on the company you tested with):

1. SLC2A3 Gene and Dyslexia in Children
2. Floxacillin Associated Liver Toxicity
3. Response to diabetes medication - Sulfonylureas
4. G6PD Gene and Risk of Hemolysis with Bactrim
5. Methamphetamine and Risk of Psychosis
6. Tramadol and CYP2D6 drugs
7. Response to steroid treatment of Crohn's disease
8. Oxycodone and CYP2D6 drugs
9. Abacavir
10. NTRK2 Gene and Lithium Efficacy
11. Tegretol Efficacy in Treatment of Seizures
12. NOS3 Gene and Response to Blood Pressure Medications
13. Phenytoin and CYP2C9 drugs
14. Hormone Replacement Therapy
15. G6PD deficiency, risk of malaria and drug-induced hemolysis
16. Response to Ibuprofen (PTGS gene)
17. Sexual Dysfunction due to Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft
18. Zofran and CYP2D6 drugs
19. Risk of Cough with Blood Pressure Medication
20. Choline - dietary requirement in premenopausal women
21. General Anesthesia - postoperative nausea and vomiting
22. Vitamin B6
23. Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis
24. Hot flashes in post menopausal women
25. APOE Gene, Cholesterol level and Diets
26. Nexium, acid reflux disease and CYP2C19 drugs
27. Warfarin and CYP2C9 drugs
28. Plavix, blood thinners and CYP2C19 drugs
29. Narcolepsy
30. Susceptibility to Both Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
31. FUT2 Gene and the Gut Microbiome
32. Susceptibility to food poisoning caused by Norovirus
33. Risk of Acute Psychosis with Cannabis
34. Alcohol tolerance
35. Cold Sores
36. APOE gene and Alzheimer disease risk
37. NOS Gene and Response to Viagra
38. Vitamin D
39. Response to Carisoprodol (SOMA)
40. Hormone Replacement Therapy, SULT1A Gene and Risk of Endometrial Cancer
41. APOE Gene and Exercise Response
42. SSRI Antidepressants and CYP2C19 Gene
43. Risk of Severe Hypersensitivity to Tegretol

That's more than a third of all the reports LiveWello provides (not including Gene Library).

Conclusion: The 28 reports you get for $19.95 are probably not worth the money, and can probably be obtained from other venues for less. However, if you're going to spend the $19.95 to upload, you might as well subscribe because it's only another $5.95 and you get a good deal more for that - you can cancel after the first month and you won't be missing anything. If they wind up adding a report you need or want later, you can always renew your subscription for another month. You may want to try cheaper venues like Promethease first though, you might find it is more comprehensive for much less money. For decent free options, I would try Codegen, GeneKnot, or Impute.

See a list of more places you can upload your DNA to here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

AncestryDNA's New Arrangement of Ethnicity and Genetic Communities

An ethnicity report showing new arrangement of
Genetic Communities
You may have recently noticed your AncestryDNA Ethnicity Report and Genetic Communities look a little different and I've been seeing a lot of people who are confused about them so let me clear some things up. Ancestry posted on their blog about the changes, but didn't really address some of the confusion about it.

First, your ethnicity report hasn't changed. A couple of the category titles have change - for example, "Ireland" is now called "Ireland/Scotland/Wales" but in case you never noticed, that category always primarily included those countries. It has not changed to include more countries that it didn't before, only the title has changed to better reflect the areas it has always covered. Below you'll see a screenshot I took before the changes were made. You'll see the details for the category "Ireland" were always "Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland" and "Also found in: France, England". If you look at the details for the newly named "Ireland/Scotland/Wales" you'll see it says the very same thing.

This is why it's so important to read all the details of each category, which they keep making harder and harder to find. Currently, you have to click on the category and at the bottom of "Overview" (you may have to scroll down and click "continue reading") there's a button that says "Read More". Make an effort to check this information for every category you have results in. If you haven't looked over it before, you may be surprised to see just how many countries or areas are included in that category, both primarily and "also found in", and just how much overlap that means it has with neighboring categories too.

"Ireland" always primarily included Scotland and Wales, too. The category
name has merely changed to better reflect these areas.

Additionally, your percentages haven't changed. You may now notice that some Genetic Communities are found as sub-groups of your ethnicity categories (see screenshot at top). Nothing about your results in either features has changed, they have just rearranged things so the layout and display is different. Some Genetic Communities are still found listed separately and these are now being called "Migrations" (see screenshot at top).

These numbers are merely how many sub-groups
(Genetic Communities) are found under that category.
Most importantly, I've seen people confusing the numbers found when clicking on "see all 150+ regions" with their results or percentages. I can't make this clear enough: these are not percentages and they have nothing to do with your personal results. They are merely the number of all sub-groups (Genetic Communities) which are available so they're the same for everyone. You will note that if you expand each category/sub-group, the numbers correlate to how many sub-groups there are, and once you can no longer expand to show more, the numbers disappear. Also note the screenshot I've provided (right) - compare it with your own and you'll see the numbers are the same. They are not a further break down of your results. When you click on "see all 150+ regions", the only indication of your personal results is that the categories and sub-groups (Genetic Communities) you have results in will have a colored dot to the left of them (and these are the very same categories and groups you've already seen on your personal results before you clicked on "all see 150+ regions" - there's nothing different here). Categories or sub-groups you have no results in will have a grey dot next to them instead. The only thing you get out of clicking on "see all 150+ regions" is seeing what other categories and Genetic Communities are available which you didn't get results in.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An Oracle Analysis

I'm going to illustrate how I interpret my Oracle results, because I still see a lot of people asking "what do my Oracle results mean?" If you haven't already, you may want to read my intro guide to Gedmatch's Admixture and Oracle, but I'd like to elaborate on that a little bit.

Firstly, it's important to remember that the results can be very speculative and it's best not to take them very literally. People in neighboring regions simply share too much DNA to always be able to tell them apart with accuracy. That means the more narrowed down the areas are in the result, the more speculative it is. You could be German, for example, and get French results because they are neighboring countries who share a lot of DNA. It doesn't mean you're French, it just means this particular calculator put that French/German shared DNA into French instead of German.

Eurogenes K13 Oracle 4, using 4 populations approximation
Secondly, your results are going to be different for each calculator you use so don't just stick to one, explore all those which apply to your background (ie, don't go using Ethiohelix when you're 100% European). Certain calculators may give you more or less accuracy than others. In my personal experience, Eurogenes K13 Oracle 4 (right) isn't very accurate. It really wants me to be Jewish and I'm really not - I have no known Jewish ancestry and don't get any Jewish results from any of the big 4 companies, or in any of Gedmatch's Admixtures. It crops up in the odd Oracle result, but none so much as Eurogenes K13 Oracle 4 populations. I personally have found K15 and EUtest Oracle's to be more accurate, and since K15 is a more recent version of EUtest, that's what I'm going to use to demonstrate how to read Oracle results in some more depth than before.

I find the best thing to do is rather than look at your Oracle results and try to pick one combination that fits you best, or shows the closest distance, look at the results on the whole. Which populations are you seeing the most? Which ones the least? Although I like to look at 4 populations the most because I am primarily from 4 different regions in Europe, you can also look at the 1, 2, and 3 populations modes.

These are my Eurogenes EUtest V2 K15 Oracle 4 results:

1 Orcadian + South_Italian + West_German + West_German @ 4.425306
2 French + South_Italian + West_German + West_Norwegian @ 4.689746
3 South_Italian + Southwest_English + West_German + West_German @ 4.689806
4 East_Sicilian + Orcadian + West_German + West_German @ 4.747531
5 Italian_Jewish + Orcadian + West_German + West_German @ 4.835878
6 East_Sicilian + Southwest_English + West_German + West_German @ 4.850750
7 Italian_Abruzzo + West_German + West_German + West_German @ 4.853912
8 North_Dutch + South_Italian + West_German + West_German @ 4.863277
9 French + Orcadian + South_Italian + West_German @ 4.911067
10 South_Italian + Southeast_English + West_German + West_German @ 4.914701
11 Tuscan + West_German + West_German + West_German @ 4.922722
12 Central_Greek + Orcadian + West_German + West_German @ 4.922800
13 South_Italian + West_German + West_German + West_Norwegian @ 4.927629
14 Irish + South_Italian + West_German + West_German @ 4.941526
15 South_Italian + West_German + West_German + West_Scottish @ 4.958009
16 East_Sicilian + French + West_German + West_Norwegian @ 4.978409
17 East_Sicilian + French + Orcadian + West_German @ 4.982550
18 South_Italian + West_German + West_German + West_German @ 5.005996
19 South_Italian + Spanish_Galicia + West_Norwegian + West_Norwegian @ 5.010231
20 Central_Greek + Southwest_English + West_German + West_German @ 5.011045

So rather than saying the top results must be the most accurate because it's the closest distance, and determining it to be only somewhat accurate because it did identify my German, Italian, and Scottish ancestry, but not my English or Norwegian, let's look at the entire results as a whole.

Map showing my known ancestor's birth
places in Europe
What am I seeing the most? Probably West German. This is very accurate, I have a lot of West German ancestry on both sides of my tree, and I estimate it makes up about 25% of my tree. I also have a couple Swiss-German branches, which is still fairly consistent with West German. There's one ancestor who was from Bavaria, which is a region of Germany more to the east, but I have no idea what part of Bavaria - could have been the western most part for all I know. What I do know is that I rarely ever get admixture/ethnicity results in Eastern Europe and when I do, it's normally in such small portions, it's likely noise. So this is all very consistent with my tree.

I'm also seeing South Italian and some other Italian regions like East Sicilian and Abruzzo. This is incredibly accurate. I do indeed have Sicilian, Abruzzo, and other Southern Italian ancestry. My paternal grandmother was of entirely Italian descent so that makes up another 25% of my tree. My Sicilian branch is a bit more Northern Sicily than Eastern, but that's fairly negligible. There's one count of Tuscan and as far as I know I have no Tuscan ancestry, but that too is probably not very significant since it only shows up once.

There's a few West Norwegians thrown in there, which is also accurate, I have one great grandparent who was Norwegian, making up 12.5% of my tree. Several branches were indeed from Western Norway, although one branch did come from the more Eastern towns of Bamble and Skien.

Map showing my population results for
Eurogenes K15 Oracle 4, compare with above map
You may also notice a few Orcadian and West Scottish populations. This is somewhat accurate, I do have several Scottish or Scots-Irish branches dating back to colonial times, but where exactly in Scotland they were from isn't really known. Orcadian (people from the Orkney Islands) seems a little unlikely as my understanding is most Orcadian immigrants went to Canada through the Hudson Bay Company rather than the US. But if we consider Orcadian as a representation of my Scottish or even British heritage, it makes sense. The Orcadians were also influenced by the Vikings, so there's also a potential connection to my Norwegian side. My overall British branches make up about 34% of my tree, and in addition to Scottish, includes English, so it's not surprising to find a few instances of Southeast or Southwest English. As you can see from the map above, I do indeed have ancestry in Southwest and Southeast England, although I have more recent roots in Northern England, near Manchester so it's a shame it didn't pick this up. It's possible Oracle is underestimating my British ancestry, since there's only a few English populations included, but when you consider how genetically similar the British and Germans are, and knowing how many instances of West German are listed, it makes some sense.

I lastly have a smidgen of colonial Dutch and French Huguenot in my tree but I don't know how realistic it is to expect that to show up in admixture results, as it may have been from too long ago. They make up about 1-2% each of my tree. So when I see a few results for North Dutch and French, I'm taking it with a grain of salt. I'd like to think it could be from colonial ancestry but the way Oracle works by identifying the populations you match most closely, it doesn't seem likely I would closely match a population from so far back in my tree. It seems more likely that it's just being picked up from neighboring regions where I have ancestry.

Likewise, I wouldn't put much thought into the remaining few instances of Italian Jewish, Central Greek, Irish, and Spanish Galicia. Irish is probably just representing my British background, as those two groups are closely related, and likewise, Italian Jewish, Central Greek, and Spanish Galicia may be related to my Italian heritage since they're all from that Mediterranean area. In any case, since there's only one or two counts of them, it's easy to ignore them.

So overall, despite the fact that it doesn't always identify my British/English ancestry as much as it maybe should, it's actually remarkably accurate when you look at it on the whole. Compare the two maps above, one showing the origins of my ancestors and the other showing my Oracle results, and they really aren't far off each other (keeping mind some of the locations for the Oracle map cover a larger area than what the pinpoints represent). Mapping it out is another good, fun way to analyze your admixture or Oracle results, if you'd like to try it, just go to My Google Maps.

I don't normally worry too much about the distance unless it starts getting really high. For example, K13's Oracle has closer distances than K15, but the populations in K15 are far more accurate for me than K13. I am NOT saying K15 is the best option for everyone. When I look at my dad's K15 Oracle results, they are mostly inaccurate, constantly insisting he is Lebanese Druze, which seems very off base. I can't even promise that there will be an Oracle calculator that is as accurate for you as Eurogenes K15 is for me, since I haven't really found one for my dad that is this accurate (he does get a lot of Abruzzo results in various calculators, which is accurate, but there's also a lot of populations that are kind of out there for him).

Also keep in mind some of the calculators contain a lot of ancient (prehistoric) populations. If you see some weird names like "Battle Axe" or "Bell Beaker", these are probably ancient populations (Battle Axe is Neolithic, Bell Beaker is western Europe in late Neolithic-early Bronze Age).

I hope this gives some more detailed insight in how you might interpret your own Oracle results. If you are adopted and don't know your ancestral background, it's difficult to know which calculators will be more accurate than others. You should definitely still take all this with a grain of salt, but it is fun to examine and compare with what we do know.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Forgotten Witch Trials of Connecticut, 1647-1697

Dramatized depiction of a witch trial
I recently discovered that I had an ancestor involved in the witch trials of Connecticut and of course immediately went to look up more information on this subject. I was very surprised to find that while there are a lot of articles about it around the internet, none came from the popular Wikipedia. There are only a few books which detail the Connecticut events and fewer still which are dedicated entirely to them. Even history buffs often admit to not knowing about the Connecticut witch trials, in spite of the fact that the very first ones in the colonies occurred in Connecticut. It's safe to say they are greatly eclipsed by the Salem witch trials, which perhaps receive more attention because they occurred over a much shorter time period. Salem was very much a frenzied hysteria with the executions of 20 people within just over a year (February 1692 to May 1693), whereas the trials in Connecticut resulted in 35 cases and just 11 executions over the course of 50 years (1647-1697). Salem certainly deserves the attention it gets, but it should not be at the cost of forgetting other important witch hunts too.

Oddly, the ancestor in question, Christopher Comstock, has his own Wikipedia page, despite the greater trials in which he was involved not having one. Christopher was involved in the witch trials twice, firstly in 1653-1654 when he gave an affidavit about having visited Goodwife Knapp while she was in prison for witchcraft. Knapp was later executed. Secondly, he served on the grand jury investigating witchcraft in Connecticut in September 1692.

One of the reasons these trials kept cropping up was because every time someone was accused of witchcraft, they were pressured to "confess" and name others they knew of who were also witches. According to the author of "The witchcraft delusion in colonial Connecticut," from the moment Knapp was sentenced she "was made the object of rudest treatment, espionage, and of inhuman attempts to wring from her lips a confession of her own guilt or an accusation against some other person as a witch." Just as we might question a terrorist to confess who they are working with, this logic was applied to "witches" too in the 17th century. This is where my ancestor Christopher Comstock comes in. In 1653, Goodwife Knapp, whose first name is lost to history, was in prison in Fairfield for witchcraft. Comstock, along with Thomas Sheruington and Goodwife Baldwin, visited her in her cell where Baldwin questioned her about her fellow "witches". It sounds as though Comstock and Sheruington were merely there as witnesses. Knapp admitted that she knew some, or at least one person who had "received Indian gods that were very bright." Knapp was claiming her innocence so Baldwin asked her how she could know this if she weren't a witch herself, to which Knapp responded that the guilty party had told her so. It appears that Knapp did not reveal the name of the person who told her this though. During another questioning by Mistress Pell, Knapp insisted, "I have sins enough already, and I will not add this [accusing another] to my condemnation."

The court didn't believe her plea of not-guilty, because Knapp was convicted and executed by hanging. She went to the grave pleading her innocence. My ancestor's role in this was minor, he was merely witness to an interview with Knapp as prisoner. His affidavit was not even used at her trial, since it was actually written after the fact, to be used in another case the following year. Unfortunately, there are few details about Knapp's trial, we do not even know the specifics of what she was accused of, who accused her, what the testimonies against her included, etc. Most of what we know about Knapp comes from an investigation after her 1653 execution in which testimonies were given about Knapp's supposed accusations of another, Mary Staples, which is when Comstock wrote his affidavit.

After Knapp's execution, her body was desecrated when several individuals stripped it and searched it for marks of a witch. Mary Staples proclaimed there were no marks on Knapp's body that couldn't also be found on herself, an attempt to claim there were no witch's marks on Knapp's body. Later, Robert Ludlow claimed that just before her execution, Knapp had requested to speak to him privately, during which she told him that Mary Staples was a witch. This seems unlikely given the fact that she wouldn't name anyone under extreme pressure and duress in her cell. Why would she suddenly, on her own accord, decide to accuse Mary Staples, and furthermore, why would she do so privately, with no witnesses, if she wanted it known? It's believed Ludlow took Mary's comments not to mean Knapp had no witch's marks, but that both Knapp and Mary had them and that made Mary a witch to. But the conflict between Ludlow and Staples had been going on since at least 1651 when Ludlow won a law suit against Mary for slander, so Ludlow was likely looking for anyway he could to accuse her of anything else. Mary's husband, Thomas Staples, caught wind of Ludlow's tale, and in attempts to forestall the accusations against his wife, brought suit against Ludlow in 1654 for defamation of character, and there began the investigation in 1654, including Comstock's affidavit. There was also a witness account given by another of my ancestors, Rose Sherwood, then the wife of Thomas Barlow. Rose testified that after Knapp's execution, she was among those women who searched Knapp's body for marks. She claims at first they found nothing unusual, but then upon another look, they did.

Despite several testimonies against Mary Staples, in the end, the court saw reason and ruled in favor of her husband, awarding Ludlow with damages for defamation of character. It did not prevent a later trial against Mary for witchcraft though, in 1692, but Ludlow had left Connecticut by then and Mary was fortunately acquitted.

It is relieving to see that Comstock's affidavit did not contribute to any conviction or execution. He was merely an observer, witness of something Knapp had said, which was later used by others as an attempt to accuse someone else, but it failed. It's hard to say what he thought or felt about it. Comstock is believed to have been born about 1635, which would have made him only 18 at the time he witnessed the questioning of Knapp in 1653. If that's the case, he was quite young and his experiences in these trials must have helped shaped his development into an adult.

What else is known of Knapp is very little. In John Taylor's "The witchcraft delusion", all it says of Knapp herself is that she was "presumably a woman of good repute, and not a common scold, an outcast, or a harridan" and quotes other sources saying "she impresses one as the best woman" and that she was a "just and high minded old lady."

John Winthrop Jr.
Fast forward to 1692. Salem is in its height of witch trial hysteria and Connecticut isn't far behind, with the trials of six women in Fairfield, all accused by the same servant girl, Katherine Branch. Fortunately, unlike in Salem, none were executed. After Hartford saw the trials of nine people and the executions of four of them in 1662, the Connecticut governor John Winthrop Jr made it necessary for two witnesses for each alleged act of witchcraft to be required for a conviction, rather than only one. This made convictions much more difficult and resulted in no further executions of witches in Connecticut after 1662. Winthrop appears to have been the saving grace of Connecticut, and something of an antithesis to Salem's Cotton Mather, often personally overturning or reversing convictions. He may have been the main reason Connecticut had fewer executions of witches overall than Salem, and none at all during Salem's mass of them in 1692. However, that's not to say the Fairfield trials in 1692 didn't results in any convictions at all. Of the six women accused, three were acquitted, two never went to trial (jury found no bill, meaning there wasn't enough evidence to go to trial), and one, Mercy Disborough, was convicted. She was never executed though, as she was later pardoned. Christopher Comstock was on the jury that convicted Mercy, but also acquitted and found no bill for the other five women. So my ancestor was (partially) responsible for the conviction of Mercy Disborough on the charge of witchcraft, but fortunately not for her death.

An engraving of one floating on water
during ordeal by water (ie, guilty)
Although Katherine Branch made the initial accusation, there were numerous testimonies against Mercy, so it seems she ruffled more than enough feathers, though nothing that should warrant her execution. Most of the accusations were ridiculous to think they could be related to Mercy, including one unnamed young woman prone to seizures who accused Mercy of being responsible for them. Mercy was subjected to being searched naked for marks of the devil, and even to the water test, or ordeal by water. This is the notorious test where one's hands and feet are bound together before being thrown into the water and if they sink, they are considered innocent, and if they float, they are considered guilty. The basis of this was the ridiculous theory that witches floated because they had renounced baptism and therefore were being rejected by the water. Another idea was that witches were supernaturally light weight. In any case, naturally, they were pulled out of the water before they drown, by a rope which was tied to them. The idea that this sort of test meant the individual on trial would die whether found innocent or guilty (drown if innocent, executed if guilty) is a modern misconception. Mercy, along with another accused (Elizabeth Clawson), were tied up and thrown into the water on September 15, 1692, where two witnesses (Abram Adams and Jonathan Squire) claimed they floated like corks, and even when pressed down into the water, they bounced back up. However, this test obviously wasn't the deciding factor in the trials, since although Mercy was convicted, Elizabeth was not, despite both of them floating. That suggests enough people at the time were skeptical of the authenticity of such a test that its results weren't taken into great consideration.

Apart from Mercy Disborough and Elizabeth Clawson, the others who were on trial in Fairfield in 1692, accused by Katherine Branch (a servant of Daniel Wescot/Westcott), included: Mary Harvey, Hannah Harvey, Goody Miller, and Mary Staples, the same Mary Staples whose husband sued Robert Ludlow for defamation of her character and won. Most of the other Connecticut cases took place in other towns, including Windsor, Hartford, Wethersfield, New Haven, East Hampton, Saybrook, Stratford, and Wallingford, though some of them were tried in Hartford instead.

Although the Connecticut cases were spread out over time and saw fewer executions than Salem, they still played an important role in the history of witch trials and should not be forgotten.

Sources:

Also check out:
  • Connecticut Witch Trials: The First Panic in the New World by Cynthia Wolfe Boynton  
  • Before Salem: Witch Hunting in the Connecticut River Valley, 1647–1663 by Richard S. III Ross
  • Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692 (New Narratives in American History) by Richard Godbeer 
  • Witchcraft Trials of Connecticut by Richard G. Tomlinson

Friday, September 29, 2017

MyHeritageDNA Matching Issues

I'm amazed, just not a good way
I'm going to illustrate why your DNA match list at MyHeritageDNA shouldn't be trusted. This has been touched on in a few other blogs (see here and here), but I want to highlight and update some details which are really very concerning.

The main problem is that the system is clearly including a high percentage of either false positive matches, or false negatives - and more than that, they are not necessarily weak matches with only small segments shared. Granted, false positives are a part of DNA matching no matter what company you test with, the nature of DNA means there are always going to be matches known as "Identical by State/Type" (IBS or IBT) versus "Identical by Descent" (IBD). Not to be confused with the medical bowel conditions using the same abbreviations, IBS matches are ones which share small amounts of DNA with you by chance, making them false positives, versus Identical by Descent which means your shared DNA comes from a common ancestor. IBS matches are a part of DNA matching no matter what - however, they only share small segments of DNA with you. This is why most companies have a cut off point where any match sharing no segments above about 7, 6, or 5 cM is automatically excluded, in attempts to reduce the amount of IBS/false positive matches included. The smaller amount of DNA you share, the more likely it is an IBS match. According to ISOGG, "False positive matching rates of between 12% and 23% have been reported for Family Finder data, and up to 34% at Ancestry using their current algorithm." So this is a normal part of DNA matching.

My closest match on MyHeritage is not a match to either my
mother or father
The trouble is, not only is MyHeritageDNA's rates of false positives much higher (around 60% according to my results and others), but more alarmingly, they are not all matches who share only small segments at the bottom of your list like normal IBS matches do. Once you get into the more distant cousins in your match list, you know that some of them are going to be IBS. However, when your top, closest match (after immediate family) who shares 89.5 cM with you (a significant amount), doesn't match either your mom or dad, you know something is very wrong. They are not just expected IBS matches, there is clearly a problem with the DNA matching system.

In fact, MyHeritage's cut off point for minimum segment size to qualify as a match appears to be 12 cM (none of my matches had a longest segment below this), which should almost assure that all the matches are IBD, not IBS (the normal cut off points are typically 5-7 cM)... and yet about 63% of my matches are clearly false positives. One of the blogs I linked to above seems to suggest these false positives are the result of imputed data (explained on their blog). While I don't fully understand imputed data, the blog is written by a professional scientist and therefore a reliable source.

Of course, it's also possible instead of being false positives for me, some of them are legit matches to me and false negatives for my parents, but here again, to have such a high match to me not turning up for either of my parents, something is clearly still wrong. If that's the case, it makes you wonder how many strong, legit matches are missing from my own match list too. Supporting the false negatives theory is the fact that none of my matches are shared matches with my Dad (don't worry, he and I match as father/child at all venues so there's no question he is my father). One could argue that's just because anyone on my dad's side who has tested is too distant to also match me, but that would have to mean I also wouldn't have any shared matches with my paternal grandfather, and yet I do. DNA doesn't skip a generation - how can I have shared matches with my paternal grandfather, but not my father, unless they are false negatives for my dad?

Of lesser concern is MyHeritage's relationship estimate ranges, which are often as specific as "1st cousin twice removed - 4th cousin", for example. No other company attempts to be as specific as this because there is so much overlap in how much DNA may be shared for different relationship types and degree. Looking at the chart to the right, you'll see that a 1st cousin twice removed is lumped into the same group, and therefore the same range of possible shared DNA, as a 2nd cousin. So why isn't the estimated range 2nd-4th cousins instead? Granted, relationship estimates take other things into consideration - not only the total amount of DNA shared, but over how many segments, and how long those segments are. Even so, if no other company is able to be as specific as 1st cousins twice removed instead of 2nd cousins, how have MyHeritage managed it? It also makes it difficult for people to understand their possible relationship with a match, since a lot of people don't even understand what "removed" means to begin with, and even those that do may have trouble knowing what relationships would be within a range that included a "removed". However, since the relationship range is only an estimate anyway, it's not a huge concern, just more of an annoyance.

I should note that all my tests (mine, my mom's, dad's, and paternal grandfather's) were transfers, meaning I had tested with another company and then uploaded my raw DNA data to MyHeritageDNA. I did not buy a test with MyHeritageDNA, and I've seen other blogs saying this makes a difference. However, since the matching database and algorithms are all the same regardless of whether you uploaded or bought a test, I don't see how this could be the case. If there's a false match in my list, then I am a false match in their list, regardless of whether one, both, or neither of us tested directly with MyHeritageDNA.

When you combine this very serious matching problem with the fact that their ethnicity report is also seemingly inferior for most people compared to other companies, it really makes their DNA test pretty worthless.Your mileage may vary regarding the ethnicity report, and of course DNA ethnicity reports are only estimates anyway, but in my experience, and that of many others, it is the least accurate out of all 4 of the big DNA genealogy companies. I highly recommend you don't get sucked in by their long running and continually reduced sales, but instead test with a more reliable company (even if it costs more) and then you can upload your raw DNA data to MyHeritage for free. Because that's about what their results are worth.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Gedmatch Admixture Guide: Parts 3 and 4

Continuing on from Parts 1 and 2 where I covered the different projects and calculators available for Admixture Proportions and what Oracle is and how to read it, I've had some requests to cover the other viewing options available like Admixture Proportions by Chromosome and Chromosome Painting. So that's what I'll be covering in Parts 3 and 4.

Part 3 - Admixture Proportions by Chromosome

How to find it: From your Gedmatch home page, under "Analyze your data" and then "DNA raw data", choose the option for Admixture (Heritage)" like you did in Part 1, but this time you're going to select " Admixture Proportions by Chromosome" from the bullet list. Be sure to select a project and then calculator and put in your kit number like normal. I would go with whatever calculator you found reflected your known ancestry best. If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you should do so first.

Admixture Proportions by Chromosome shows you your admixture proportions as broken down by individual chromosome; or, in other words, what percentages of each chromosome are most commonly found in which populations/ethnicity. This gives you a much more detailed view of where your DNA is most commonly found.

Admixture proportions (or ethnicity percentages) broken
down by chromosome
So with Eurogenes K13, it shows my chromosome 1 is 28.1% North Atlantic, 15.7% Baltic, 27.7% West Mediterranean, 16.9% West Asian, 10.9% East Mediterranean, and 1.1% Amerindian. This option can often show results in populations that don't show up in a normal Admixture Proportions calculator. However, always keep in mind small percentages may just be from "noise" - like a false positive. I have no Native American ancestry so the 1.1% Amerindian probably doesn't mean anything. You'll also note how I get some North Atlantic results, in varying amounts, on every single one of my chromosomes.

My Eurogenes K13 results
In my normal K13 results, I got 39.03% in North Atlantic, so this is just breaking that average of 39.03% down by chromosome. If you add up all the percentages for one population and divide it by 22 (number of chromosomes) you'll get your overall average for that population. You may note it's a little off from what the admixture calculator originally gave you - for example my average for North Atlantic when each chromosome is added up and divided by 22 is 38.89%, not the original 39.03%. I am not sure why that is, but it's such a small difference I'm not going to worry about it too much. If someone has more information on this discrepancy, please comment below!

At the bottom it says "Number of SNPs eval" - this is just how many of your SNPs were used for the evaluation.

It doesn't show which particular segments each percentage is found on though, but that brings us to the next options.

Part 4 - Chromosome Painting and Reduced Size

How to find it: Same as above, but select "Chromosome Painting" or "Chromosome Painting - Reduced Size" from the bullet list instead.


Chromosome Painting is a visual representation of your admixture proportions not only by chromosome but by segments of each chromosome. The different colors show which segments of each chromosome were most similar with which populations. When there are overlapping colors on the same segment, it means that segment is found in more than one population. The higher the spike, the stronger the match to that population. So with segments where there are solid blocks of one color are more solidly found in only that population. Above is just a small portion of one of my chromosomes (7, I believe), as an example of the various populations that will show up for any given segment.

Chromosome painting reduced size
The reduced size option just condenses it so it's easier to view on a single screen. After viewing the full size, you'll quickly see just how cumbersome it is to get an overview, so the reduced size is ideal for that. The full size is better for examining particular portions. They don't label each chromosome but they are listed chromosome 1 to 22, from left to right. They are also rotated so the start of the chromosomes at the bottom.

You may notice in either the full or reduced size that similar populations (though it's more noticeable in full), or neighboring regions, often spike and dip almost in unison with each other. This is because neighboring regions tend to share a lot of DNA and be genetically similar so when you see this, what you're seeing is that these portions of your DNA may be somewhat indistinguishable among two or more groups. This is important in understanding that not all DNA can be narrowed down to the more specific areas or countries that so many people wish it could, not with any reliability. It also illustrates why you might get results in a region that you have no known ancestry in when it neighbors a region you do have ancestry in.

23andMe's chromosome painting
If you tested with 23andMe, you may be somewhat familiar with chromosome painting already. 23andMe's option for it is a little more straight forward. It doesn't have all the spikes and dips, just solid blocks showing which segments were put into which groups (shown left). However, it does show the two sides of each chromosome whereas Gedmatch doesn't seem to do this. Although in some ways, Gedmatch's painting is more detailed, it is essentially the same concept, just a slightly different approach.

Disclaimer: Please note I am not a professional in the genetics industry, and it is difficult to find information particularly on some of the more advanced admixture tools on gedmatch. This is how I have come to understand the results and tools through my own experiences and research, but please, if someone more knowledgeable can correct me if I've misunderstood something, or can fill in some gaps, let me know by commenting below.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Which DNA Test Should I Buy? A Comprehensive DNA Buying Guide

Ancestry.com, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and now even MyHeritage all offer DNA tests related to genealogy. To determine which DNA test you should buy, you should first determine your motivation for doing so. There's generally one (or more) of four reasons to buy a genealogical DNA test:

1. You're a genealogist (hobbyist or professional) looking for new ways to explore more about your ancestry and possibly break down some brick walls in your tree
2. You're not a genealogist and just interested in your ethnic background
3. You're adopted or looking for an unknown biological parent
4. You are looking for a genetic health report

(A potential 5th reason would be if you want to determine if a known relative is actually a biological relative - for example, if you suspect your father is not your biological father and want to confirm or deny it. Or if you want to determine whether a sibling is a full or half sibling. As long as you both test with the same company, all 4 companies will provide this information).

(Note, it's okay if you want to skip to the final conclusion below, I won't be offended! I've also created a comparison chart, similar to the comparison chart from ISOGG, which is also useful).

The next important thing to understand is that there are three different types of DNA tests: Autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, and mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA, you may have heard of this if you've ever obsessively watched Forensic Files). Here's an explanation of each:

Autosomal DNA is typically the test that most people are looking for, as it's the only one that includes an ethnicity report, and it's also the only one capable of providing a health report (though not all companies include a health report, more on that later). It includes DNA from your autosome chromosomes 1-22, and from the 23rd chromosome, the sex chromosomes. That means it includes DNA from all branches of your tree (back to a certain variable point). It is gender neutral, which means both men and women can take it, and it will not exclude anything based on gender.

There's two main parts to the autosomal DNA test - your ethnicity report, which is largely an estimate and should not be taken very literally, and your match list, a list of other testers (from the same company) who you share DNA with. You will not share DNA with all your distant cousins though, and the more distantly related you are, the less likely you will share DNA. It also won't be able to tell you how you relate to any of your matches - it can only estimate a degree of relationship, not which side or branch they are from. You have to work with your matches and their trees to figure this out yourself. Despite this, the autosomal DNA test is an ideal option for adoptees because it's the only test that will provide matches from all your ancestors, not just one specific line.

Be aware that the ethnicity report often isn't able to narrow the results down as specifically as many people would like. Don't be misled by commercials - no DNA test can narrow it down as specifically as "German" or "Scottish", not with any accuracy at least.

The autosomal DNA test also includes data on the X chromosome, which is one of the sex chromosomes. Males are XY, females are XX. For males, the raw data will include some data on the Y chromosome, but most companies don't provide a Y haplogroup (explained below), and none of them provide matches on the Y chromosome. Most companies allow you to see matches on the X chromosome - more details on which companies provide what will be included further on.

Y-DNA is a test that can only be taken by males, because they have a Y chromosome. If you are female, you can have a male relative like your father or brother or paternal uncle or cousin take the Y-DNA test for you. What this means is that Y-DNA only follows the direct paternal lineage - ie, your father, your father's father, your father's father's father, etc (it does NOT include your entire father's side - ie, it does not include anything from your paternal grandmother's side). No female ancestors contribute to or pass along Y-DNA. Because surnames typically follow the direct paternal line as well, it means that surnames and Y-DNA can often be connected and so there are many Y-DNA projects you can join for your surname. For male adoptees or men looking for a unknown biological father (or paternal grandfather), it means the Y-DNA test may help you identify the surname of the man you're looking for. Be aware, this is often dependent on how many Y-DNA matches you have, and what their surnames are. For adoptees, I recommend taking both the Y-DNA test and the autosomal DNA test, if you can afford it. If your Y-DNA matches suggest a certain surname, go to your autosomal DNA matches and look for people who have that surname in their tree.

In addition to a match list, the Y-DNA test also provides your Y haplogroup. What is a haplogroup? It's a label given to a grouping of genetic markers which every so often mutates. The parent haplogroup goes back to prehistoric times. Every time there is a new mutation it narrows down a new group and there is a new identifier attached to the haplogroup name. What this means is that haplogroups aren't particularly useful for recent genealogy and only really tell you about the migration patterns of your prehistoric ancestors. Some haplogroups are specific to certain races or ethnicities - meaning it may be able to tell you whether your direct paternal lineage was European, African, Asian, Native American, etc. But it probably won't help you identify a recent ancestor by name.

The Y-DNA is more expensive than the autosomal DNA test and there are a few different options to buy, depending on how many markers you want to include. The more markers, the better quality of the results, but also the more expensive. The more markers, the more specific the haplogroup will be, and the more specific and reliable the genetic distant with your matches will be (see the genetic distance chart at FTDNA). Due to the fact that it's more expensive, I would not recommend the Y-DNA test unless you have a question on the specific paternal line.

mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) is a test that can be taken by both males and females, as we all have mtDNA, but similar to the Y-DNA test, it only provides results from the direct maternal lineage - ie, your mother, your mother's mother, your mother's mother's mother, etc (it does NOT include your entire maternal side - ie, it does not include anything from your maternal grandfather's side). Unfortunately, since surnames don't normally follow the maternal line, mtDNA tends to be less useful for recent genealogy than Y-DNA. If you are an adoptee, you may want to consider taking the mtDNA test in addition to the autosomal DNA test, but keep in mind is it more expensive and may not provide any useful matches or data.

Like the Y-DNA test, the mtDNA test also provides a haplogroup. They work the same as Y-DNA haplogroups, identifying groups of genetic markers that mutate every so often and date back to prehistoric times. For example, my mtDNA haplogroup is T2b. The parent group of markets is identified as 'T', the '2' represents one mutation, and the 'b' represents another. This does not mean I've only had 2 mutations, only that these are the only two identified so far as an existing, known new group. If enough people are found with the same additional mutations as myself, new groups and therefore more numbers and letters will be added to my haplogroup. Like Y-DNA, mtDNA haplogroups really only show you the prehistoric migration routes your ancestors took and while they may be able to identify the race or ethnicity of your direct maternal line, it likely won't help you identify a recent ancestor by name.

In my opinion, mtDNA is only really useful if you happen to get a very close match, which is unlikely since the database of mtDNA testers is relatively low. Even then, a "close" mtDNA match still may not be related within a genealogical time frame.



Now that you understand the different tests, I will go through and detail the pros and cons of each company, which types of test they provide, and give my advice on them depending on what you're looking for from the tests.

A screenshot of my ethnicity report from AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA from Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com used to provide Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, but they no longer do so. Currently, they only provide the autosomal DNA test, which does not include any haplogroups. You will receive an estimated ethnicity report (called Genetic Ancestry) and you can see the 26 regions and categories available here. The info they provide about each category in your results are very detailed, but the accuracy of the ethnicity report is fairly average - some find it more accurate than others.

You'll also receive your list of DNA matches with other testers, in addition to a few other features and tools unique to Ancestry.com like Genetic Communities (shown below - these have now been renamed "Migrations"), DNA Circles, and New Ancestor Discoveries. Genetic Communities (now "Migrations") finds groups of people who share DNA and have the same, known ancestry in a certain area. This is somewhat of an attempt to narrow down your genetic ancestry to more specific areas. DNA Circles finds groups of people who share DNA and have the same ancestor in their tree - so this is not available if you don't have a tree attached to your DNA test. New Ancestor Discoveries are basically DNA Circles for people who are not in your tree (yet), so you will still get these if you don't have a tree.

A screenshot of my mom's Genetic Communities unique to
AncestryDNA
The major benefit to AncestryDNA is that they have the largest database of testers, which means you'll get the most DNA matches to work with. Their database is international, because the test is available in 35 different countries, the full list of which can be found here, however the majority of testers are in the US.

The major downside to AncestryDNA is there is no chromosome browser. A chromosome browser is important to identify matching segments among multiple people you match (triangulation). That doesn't mean you can't have success with AncestryDNA, but in some cases it may make things more difficult. In part, because of this, AncestryDNA does not identify matches on the X chromosome.

AncestryDNA does not provide a health report so it is not an option for people who want an integrated health report, however, there are affordable, third party sites that will accept Ancestry's raw DNA data to provide you with a health report. These will be detailed later. AncestryDNA also doesn't include any mtDNA or Y-DNA haplogroups, although as discussed previously, haplogroups aren't really very useful for recent genealogy anyway so there's nothing really lost here.

Another downside is the fact that Ancestry does not accept raw DNA uploads from other companies. This means unless you test with Ancestry, you can't get results from them and that actually means that in spite of being a negative, it makes the most sense to test with AncestryDNA and then use your raw DNA data from them to upload to other companies that do accept them.

The method of collecting your DNA may be important since some older people have difficulty producing saliva - AncestryDNA's method is a spit tube. You have to fill it to a line. If you're struggling, you can cover it with plastic wrap and set it upright in your fridge and try to add to it later. Also try a little bit of sugar on the tip of your tongue to help stimulate saliva, and/or chew gently on your cheek.

AncestryDNA does not allow you to opt out of DNA matching.

Pricing is normally $99, however, there are often sales ranging from $69 to $89, typically for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Black Friday/Christmas run up, National DNA Day (yes, that's a thing, April 25), and sometimes other times of year like St Patrick's Day. They can also be somewhat spontaneous - this year they had a random "Summer DNA Sale" for half of August.

Conclusion: Apart from the lack of a chromosome browser, AncestryDNA is a good option for adoptees, people looking for an ethnicity report, or genealogists wanting to break down brick walls in their tree, especially if you are already a subscriber there and host your tree there. It just makes sense to have your tree, DNA, and major records resource all in the same place. Non-subscribers are not able to view the full trees of their DNA matches, which may be limiting. However, you can contact your DNA matches and ask them for an invite to their tree, which would allow you access. Trees are important to figuring out how you relate to someone. Particularly for adoptees, using trees to mirror them in your search for biological parents is essential. AncestryDNA is not an option for a integrated health report, but third party options to upload to are available.



A screenshot of my 23andMe ethnicity report

23andMe

There are two autosomal DNA tests available from 23andMe - the "ancestry-only" test which does not include a health report, and the "ancestry+health" test which does includes the health report. Although they are both autosomal DNA tests, they both include an mtDNA haplogroup and, if you are male, a Y-DNA haplogroup. It may not be your most specific haplogroup since they are working with limited mtDNA and Y-DNA data, and they do not include any mt or Y matches with other testers. If you're looking for an mtDNA or Y-DNA test, this is not a shortcut, it is not a true mtDNA or Y-DNA test.

In my experience, most people seem to feel the accuracy of 23andMe's ethnicity report (called Ancestry Composition) is better than other companies. However, it is still an estimate and unlike other companies, they have these "Broadly" categories that can't be narrowed down further (see above or below for examples). The descriptions of each category are also rather short, not very detailed, and the map showing the areas covered is small and not very detailed (see above). They do provide some features that other companies don't, like chromosome painting (shown below) which shows you which portions of your chromosomes they placed into different regions, and a timeline that shows an estimate of how long ago your ancestor of a certain ethnicity lived. Their full list of 31 regions/populations can be found here.

Chromosome painting at 23andMe shows the portions of
my chromosomes they've associated with which groups
The major downside to 23andMe is that they no longer support any family trees. As discussed, trees are important to figuring out how you relate to your DNA matches, and essential for adoptees. Of course, you can host a tree on another website and post a link to it in your 23andMe profile, but most people don't do this, and even if they do have a tree hosted elsewhere, it is very cumbersome to try to work on two different platforms. Similarly, most people report that their matches at 23andMe are more likely to not respond to their attempts to communicate. This is probably because many people at 23andMe tested there for the health report, and may have no interest in the genealogical side of things.

23andMe does provide a chromosome browser but their interface isn't always intuitive and the chromosome browser can be found in two different places, with the harder one to find including more data.

A portion of the list of rare diseases carrier status,
a part of your health report at 23andMe
The health report is the feature that sets 23andMe apart from the other companies. However, although they are gradually adding more and more health reports, they are lacking many of the health issues most people want to know about, like tendency for cancer, heart failure, etc. These may get added as time goes on, but at the moment, many of the health reports are your carrier status for rare diseases that you may never have heard of and are probably negative for (see example right). There's also 4 genetic health risks that might be more common, but there's only four of them (Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, Hereditary Thrombophilia). There are a few other "wellness reports" and "traits" reported, but they are mostly things you probably already know about yourself, like whether you're likely or unlikely to be lactose intolerant, whether you're a deep sleeper or not, what color your eyes are, etc. You can actually get a more comprehensive health report from third party companies where you can upload your raw DNA data. As 23andMe add more and more reports though, this may change.

Like AncestryDNA, 23andMe does not accept raw DNA uploads from other companies so if you want results from them, you have to buy their test.

23andMe is able to ship to over 50 countries, listed here, though health reports will not be available for most of them (those are listed here).

23andMe's method of collecting your DNA sample is a spit tube. See details above for tips on collecting from a dry mouth.

You can opt out of DNA matching with 23andMe if you wish to.

Pricing is normally $99 for the ancestry-only test, and $199 for ancestry+health. 23andMe do not often have sales - the only time I've seen their tests on sale were actually through Amazon, and even that is not often.

Conclusion: 23andMe would be good for people who just want an ethnicity report, or health report, but because of the lack of trees and responses from matches, it would not be ideal for adoptees or genealogists wanting to break down brick walls in their tree. If you have the money and inclination, I would still encourage testing with them though, since they don't accept uploads from other companies. If you want a health report but can't afford 23andMe's health test, there are third party sites that will accept data from 23andMe (details below).



FamilyTreeDNA

A screenshot of my mother's ethnicity report at
FamilyTreeDNA
FamilyTreeDNA, commonly abbreviated to FTDNA, offers autosomal DNA (called "Family Finder"), Y-DNA, and mtDNA tests. They are really the only company to offer Y-DNA and mtDNA. Other companies (named lower down) may offer them, but typically don't provide a match list.

Just like the other companies, FamilyTreeDNA offers an ethnicity report (called myOrigins), and a DNA match list. It does not include a health report. It does support family trees, and offers a chromosome browser and other tools for working with your matches (like the matrix tool, for triangulation, see below).

They also accept raw DNA data from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage, for only $19 to unlock your full results.

FamilyTreeDNA's Matrix tools for seeing which of your
matches also match other select matches
The major downside to FamilyTreeDNA is that their ethnicity report probably ranks 3rd out of the 4 companies covered here. Granted, they are the only ones attempting to identify Sephardic Jewish ancestry, all other companies only include Ashkenazi. They also split Native American into North and South America, whereas 23andMe and AncestryDNA lump them together. But if you're not one of these groups, it's probably not important. A full list of their 24 regions included can be found here.

Since they offer full mtDNA and Y-DNA tests, their autosomal DNA test does not include haplogroups like 23andMe does, however, as discussed, haplogroups aren't particularly useful for recent genealogy anyway. They have partnered with Vitagene to offer a health report for $49 but be aware that Vitagene also accepts data from 23andMe and AncestryDNA for a health report of the same cost, they just aren't partnered. Additionally, the FTDNA health report from Vitagene is only available for those who bought a test with FTDNA, not for those who uploaded their raw DNA data from another company. And as discussed, there are other third party sites that provide a health report and accept uploads from FamilyTreeDNA too.

FamilyTreeDNA will ship to "most international locations" - the only countries they list as unable to ship to, due to customs restrictions, are Sudan and Iran. More details here.

The method of collecting your DNA sample is a cheek swab, some people with dry mouth may find this easier to use.

You can opt out of DNA matching with FamilyTreeDNA if you'd like to.

Pricing is normally $89 for the autosomal Family Finder test but can sometimes be found on sale for $59-$79.

Pricing for Y-DNA normally ranges from $169 to $359, depending on marker amounts (see above info on Y-DNA for details), but you can sometimes find them on sale for less.

Pricing on mtDNA is normally $79 for "mtDNA Plus" or $199 for Full Sequence, but you can sometimes find them on sale for less. The mtDNA Plus test might be tempting for only $79, but this will only be relevant to ancient/prehistory. If you want any chance of having results/matches from a genealogical time frame, you have to buy Full Sequence.

Conclusion: It's the go-to place for Y-DNA or mtDNA. While FamilyTreeDNA offers all the tools necessary for working with your autosomal matches, which is necessary for genealogists and adoptees, the ethnicity report isn't the best, and if you don't mind the $19 fee, it makes more sense to test with another company and upload to FamilyTreeDNA. If you're not interested in dealing with multiple companies, and you're not that bothered about the ethnicity report, then FamilyTreeDNA is the best option for a slightly lower cost. They do offer a health report from VitaGene for an extra cost, but you can get a VitaGene health report if you test with other companies too, so it's not exclusive to them.



A screenshot of my ethnicity report at MyHeritageDNA

MyHeritageDNA

MyHeritage are newcomers to autosomal DNA testing (they do not provide mtDNA or Y-DNA) and therefore their database of testers is very small - you will have few matches compared to other companies, although it is growing fast. Additionally, I've had a poor experience with their matching system, where most of my matches can not be found as matches to either my mother or my paternal grandfather (whose tests are both on MyHeritage too). However, they can't all be matches to my paternal grandmother, especially considering she was Italian and none of these matches are Italian. There are a few articles about MyHeritage's unreliable matching found here and here. It seems they have an abnormally high amount of false positive (or false negative) matches. Hopefully, this will be fixed in the future, and as their database grows, it will become more useful to genealogists and adoptees. They also do not offer a chromosome browser, or many tools for working with your matches, like a shared matches/in common with tool available from all 3 of the other big companies.

The other major downside is their ethnicity report is also very inaccurate for most people at the moment - I expect that will improve with time (all companies periodically update their ethnicity reports), and their database will grow with time as well. The maps are fairly detailed though, and one bonus to their ethnicity report is that they break Native American down into three regions, more than any of the other 3 big DNA companies, so if you are Native American, this may be a good option. They also have five Jewish populations. MyHeritage don't like to name all their regions/populations available until you've taken the test, but there are 42 of them, and you can see a map of their coverage here and I've also created a spreadsheet with them listed here.

MyHeritage does not offer mtDNA or Y-DNA tests, only autosomal DNA, and does not include any haplogroups like 23andMe's autosomal DNA test does, but again, haplogroups aren't very useful for recent genealogy. MyHeritage also does not offer a health report, and at this time I do not think third party health sites will accept raw data from MyHeritage (this may change with time).

Like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage is also a genealogy website that offers a database of records and resources for genealogy research, for a fee. They also offer family trees and you can attach your tree to your DNA results, however their trees are limited to 200 people within them if you don't subscribe, which could be promblematic if you or your matches don't have complete trees to work with. If you subscribe to MyHeritage already, it would make sense for you to have your DNA test there. However, because MyHeritage currently accept uploads from other companies (23andMe, AncestryDNA, and FamilyTreeDNA) for FREE, it doesn't make much sense to buy their test when you can get the same results for free by testing with another company and uploading your raw DNA to MyHeritage. I imagine they are currently only offering the uploads for free because their database of testers is so small and they are trying to build it up. Once they have a better established database, they may start charging for uploads. So I'd recommend getting your raw DNA data uploaded there as quickly as possible, while it's still free.

MyHeritage don't seem to detail what countries they are able to ship to, but they do offer the test to be purchased in different currencies, including USD, EUR, GBP, and ILS.

The method of collecting your DNA sample uses a cheek swab.

They do not allow you to opt out of DNA matching.

Pricing is normally $99, though they currently have a long running sale for $69, probably to entice people and more quickly build their database.

Conclusion: Due to the poor ethnicity report, small tester database, unreliability with matching, lack of tools for your match list, the limitations of not having a subscription, no health report (and not supported by third parties who provide health reports), and the fact that they accept free uploads from other companies, I would not recommend buying a test from MyHeritageDNA, regardless of your reasons for testing. It makes more sense to buy with another company and upload to MyHeritage. If the current sale price appeals more to you, keep an eye out for sales from AncestryDNA.

Other Testing Companies

LivingDNA Europe break down
The above four companies are certainly not the only ones to offer DNA tests, but they are the main (only?) ones which are geared towards genealogy and include both ethnicity and DNA matching with other testers, all for the most affordable cost. The following companies don't offer DNA matching and yet are often much more expensive.

LivingDNA offers the greatest break down of your ethnicity report - 93 populations in total, including 20 regions within Europe and 21 regions just within Great Britain/Ireland, but this also makes it highly speculative and possibly not very accurate. Also note they have no Jewish categories. Biggest complaint is they overestimate British results. They do not offer matching (but are planning to add it soon) or a health report, but do include autosomal, mtDNA and Y-DNA. They do not accept uploads from other companies but are looking into adding it for autosomal only. Normally $159.

My DNATribes Ethnicity Report
DNATribes offers a greater break down for Native American regions (seven), but regions for Europe are very broad (only 4), and they do not offer matching or health report. Focus is more on ancient "deep" ancestry, not recent. They do accept uploads from other companies for $50 (option for that is found here). They do not offer mtDNA or Y-DNA. Normally $119.

AncestryByDNA (not to be confused with AncestryDNA) uses an outdated method of determining your ethnicity report and is therefore very unreliable. Unsurprisingly, they are shutting down Sep 30, 2017. They do not offer matching, health reports, or allow uploads from other companies. Offers autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA. Pricing no longer available due to discontinuation.

National Geographic's Geno 2.0 (The Genographic Project) focuses on ancient DNA, not recent genealogy, and does not offer matching, health report, or allow uploads from other companies. Includes autosomal, mtDNA, and if male, Y-DNA. Normally $199.95.

Genos is a company that provides your full genome and is therefore extremely expensive at $499. It does not provide any ethnicity or matching. They do provided a health report of sorts but their FAQ is careful to say, "We provide information like population frequency and related health traits. We do not provide interpretation, and do not specialize in addressing conditions." Unless you need your full genome for a specific medical reason your doctor has requested, this is probably not worth the money.

African Ancestry is obviously a test for people of African descent. They provide Y-DNA, and/or mtDNA, not autosomal. They offer highly specific results of where in Africa your ancestry is from, but keep in mind it's only from one direct line, not your full ancestry. They do accept mtDNA or Y-DNA uploads from other companies for $210. They do not offer matching or health reports. Normally $299 for either Y-DNA or mtDNA (so $598 for both). That's pretty expensive, and I couldn't say whether the results are worth it as I'm not African.

Vitagene is primarily a DNA test which provides a health report, and also includes an ethnicity report. They do not provide DNA matching with other testers, or any mtDNA or Y-DNA. They will provide a health report only (no ethnicity) for uploads from AncestryDNA or 23andMe for $49, or if you tested with FamilyTreeDNA there should be an option on your dashboard to order a health report from Vitagene for the same cost (if you uploaded to FTDNA from another company, this is not an option within FTDNA). They will also sell you supplements/vitamins and a diet and fitness plan based on your DNA health report. Normally $99.


Third Party Options

One of the many admixture calculators available at Gedmatch
One of the great things about DNA is that there are independent sites that provide further analysis on your raw DNA data, for small fees or even free. They do not sell DNA tests themselves, they only take the raw data from whatever company you tested with and analyze it.

Gedmatch is the go-to third party site for DNA analysis. It accepts uploads for free from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritageDNA, and WeGene (below). It offers multiple different admixture (ethnicity) calculators, a list of your closest matches from people who have uploaded from all different companies regardless of which one you tested with, and a more detailed comparison with any one particular person/test. It does not include a health report and the main criticism is that it's not very user-friendly. For a guide on the admixture calculators, see my blog article on it.

WeGene is a site that focuses on Asian ancestry, it's not really ideal for others. They accept free uploads from 23andMe and AncestryDNA, but currently not FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage. Includes ethnicity report, mtDNA and Y-DNA haplogroups, and health report. Unclear on whether they provide matching?

DNA.land's ethnicity report
DNA.land is similar to Gedmatch and is also free, they accept uploads from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and FamilyTreeDNA, but not from MyHeritage (at this time). They only offer one ethnicity report (as opposed to Gedmatch's many), and their match lists are small, as they have a smaller database of uploaded tests. No health report but they do have a "trait prediction report" which may be a precursor to a health report. They also give you the option to participate in medical studies. It's a project run by the Columbia University and the New York Genome Center.

Promethease will provide a health report from data from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and FamilyTreeDNA for only $5, and from Genos for $10. It is fairly comprehensive, but only really tells you what genes you have that are associated with what conditions. You should really consult a doctor for a medical opinion on it.

GENOtation is a free tool from Stanford University that analyzes your 23andMe or Lumigenix data for ancestry and health reports.

LiveWello will provide a health report for $19.95 from your 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or FamilyTreeDNA raw data.


Final Conclusion: 

If you're a genealogist or adoptee, to get the best value, I recommend testing with AncestryDNA or 23andme, and then uploading your raw DNA data to MyHeritageDNA for free, and to FamilyTreeDNA for only $19 to unlock your full results. If you want health reports, you can upload to Promethease.org for only $5. That way, you wind up spending a max of about $125 for results from 3 companies and a health report (and any free third parties you choose to upload to). You'll get the most out of your money this way. If you have the money and inclination, buy from both AncestryDNA and 23andMe, then upload everywhere else, as then you'll have access to and matches from every company. If you don't have the money or inclination, I would prioritize buying AncestryDNA over 23andMe, since 23andMe doesn't offer family trees, and AncestryDNA have the biggest database of testers. If you're really on a tight budget, and can't afford $120-125, then I would say test with FamilyTreeDNA, since it's less expensive and has all the tools you need.

If you're thinking "wow, I'm not that into this, I just want my ethnicity and/or health report and I'm good with it from just one company, I'm not interested in the rest," then I would recommend 23andMe or AncestryDNA. However, I would also remind you that the ethnicity report is only an estimate, the true value of the test is with the DNA matches. If you're not inclined to upload to Promethease.org for a $5 health report which is arguably more comprehensive than 23andMe's $199 test right now, then 23andMe is your only option for a health report. If you're not even interested in DNA matching then perhaps you could even consider Vitagenes for an ethnicity and health report for $99.

If you're just looking for ethnicity and no health report, 23andMe have the most accurate ethnicity report in my experience, followed by AncestryDNA, then FamilyTreeDNA, and finally MyHeritage coming in last (this is based on my experience with all 4 companies, managing 3 kits, and on years of communicating with other testers who typically agree with this assessment, and additionally the opinion of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy). So although they are less expensive, MyHeritage has terrible ethnicity reports at the moment, and although FamilyTreeDNA has improved their ethnicity report recently, it is still sub-par if you ask me. You get what you pay for. That said, different companies often have more break down in one region or another. 23andMe has a greater break down of East Asia than AncestryDNA does, but AncestryDNA has a greater break down of Africa than 23andMe. For a complete comparison, check out the spreadsheet I made. Given that Ancestry's DNA test is more commonly on sale than 23andMe, if you're not desperate for 23andMe's health report and there's no rush, I'd recommend waiting and snagging AncestryDNA when it's on sale. You'll be waiting much longer if you wait for 23andMe to go on sale. However, if not being able to opt out of DNA matching is a deal breaker, then go with 23andMe where you can opt out.

If the spit tube is a deal breaker, then FamilyTreeDNA is your best option.

Of course you are free to make your own decision based on the information provided! This is just my opinion, but it is based on years of experience with all 4 companies and some of the third parties. I also created a quick reference chart that compares the companies as well.