Friday, May 25, 2012

23andme- Ancestry Painting

Remember when I said that genealogy was never boring?  Well, I lied--sort of.  One feature offered by genome testing at is that they are able to calculate the geographic origin of each of your chromosomes going back about 500 years.  Everyone inherits half of the DNA on their chromosomes from each parent, and everyone (unless you have an extra chromosome, such as Down's Syndrome patients) has 23 pairs chromosomes--hence the name of "23 and me."

To calculate your genetic ancestry, 23andme uses three basic populations: European, African, and Asian; and compares your DNA to populations on those continents.  Note: Native American and Pacific Islander ancestry is classified as "Asian," as those populations were thought to have drifted from Asia to the east.  On your Ancestry Graph, there are two segments represented for each chromosome, one segment that you inherited from each parent.  If that segment was European in origin, it will be colored blue, if African, green, and if Asian, orange. 

Why provide this information?  It is known that certain genes control specific functions in your body. If you carry Europeans DNA on certain chromosomes, you may be more resistant or susceptible to some diseases. Likewise, Sickle-Cell anemia will be African in origin. Secondly, the most obvious reason is for genealogical purposes. Lots of Americans claim to have descended from  a "Cherokee princess."   Ancestry painting will show if you have inherited "Asian" DNA.  Likewise,  African-Americans can see how much European DNA they have inherited, and most Hispanics will have a high European percentage combined with the Native American "Asian."

An African-American's Ancestry Painting:


A child of an Asian mother and Italian father:



100 % European. No Cherokee princess.  Boring........

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Last year, I had my DNA tested by 23andMe.  This company, found at, provides genome testing to reveal inherited traits, genealogy, and congenital disease risks.  I signed up for a test kit online (currently priced at $299), and received my test kit a few days later.  There is no blood test involved, I simply spit into a glass tube and returned my sample in the postage paid box.  A few weeks later, I received my results.

Traits: From the saliva sample, the company reported that I likely had blue/green eyes (true), reddish hair (true), type O- blood (true), little curl in my hair (true).  It also reported that I was not likely lactose intolerant, did not flush when drinking alcohol, and was unlikely to taste bitter flavors such as asparagus-- again all true.  It also revealed traits I was unaware of, such as the genes for fast twitch muscles (found in elite athletes and track stars).  Pretty fascinating to discover that all this could be revealed from a saliva sample!

Congenital disease risk:  I tested negative as a carrier of cystic fibrosis, breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2), Gaucher's Disease, Tay-Sachs Syndrome, and Sickle-Cell Anemia.  In fact, I am not a carrier for any genetic disease.  There are other diseases that have strong genetic components but need environmental triggers.  Of these diseases, I have a stronger risk of developing gallstones, type-1 diabetes, atrial fibrillation, celiac disease, and stomach cancer.  This is no way means that I will develop any of these diseases!  Again, this is based on my genes, lifestyle choices can impact the occurrence of these diseases. I would recommend DNA testing for anyone solely on the basis for discovering your disease risks, particularly to find out if you may be a carrier for a congenital disease.  Knowledge is power.  This knowledge will allow you to make informed decisions about your health and lifestyle. I will continue to exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
Many of you know that my son, Adam, has type-1 diabetes.  Based on my DNA results, he may have inherited a predisposition for this disease from me.  No one knows how genetics and environment impact the development of type-1 diabetes, that is, if you have to inherit something from both of your parents, etc.  No one gene or combination of genes has been identified as the "marker" for diabetes. Basically, studies have indicated that persons with genetic combination most similar to mine may have a higher predisposition to the disease. Hopefully, genetic research will unlock the mystery of how diabetes is inherited, which will surely lead to a cure for the disease in Adam's lifetime.  Again, information is power if you choose to act on it wisely.

GenealogyI have read that 23andme got into the DNA business with the goal of researching health and disease, and had initially provided genealogical information as a value-added feature.  I think that was kind of short-sided on their part, as I believe that most people that have been tested are interested in their genealogy and have viewed the health information as the value-addded feature!  Basically there are three genealogical features that genome testing on 23andme can reveal about your DNA: haplogroups, ancestry painting, and a "relative finder"  I will discuss these features in future blogs!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Are We Related to Anyone Famous?

"Do you have any famous relatives?"

This is the #1 question that I am asked when someone discovers that I am researching my genealogy. The answer is,"YES!"  So far, I have uncovered connections to two very famous Americans, one from each side of my family tree.  Which one is more famous? You be the judge!

Famous Relative #1

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr (1858-1919)
26th President of the United States

File:President Theodore Roosevelt, 1904.jpg

Roosevelt was the 6th cousin of one of my maternal 2nd great-grandmothers, Rosanna Mann.  My 9th great-grandparents were also Roosevelt's 5th great-grandparents: Thomas Potts and Elizabeth Baset Potts.  Thomas Pott died in 1680 in Llanigirrig, Montgomeryshire, Wales, leaving his wife with seven young children.  The Potts family were Quakers.  The local church gave the widow money for passage to the United States to settle in William Penn's new Quaker colony, Pennsylvania around the year 1680.  Roosevelt is related through his father's mother to Thomas and Elizabeth's son David, while I am descended through another son named Jonas.  We are also related to Theodore's niece, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who married one of her distant cousins, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States.  See the family resemblance?  I think she looks like my sister.....just kidding!

Famous relative #2

Madonna Louise Ciccone
(1958- living)

Madonna is my 7th cousin through my paternal grandmother.  Many people assume Madonna is Italian.  Her FATHER is Italian, her mother was French-Canadian.  If you are French-Canadian or Louisiana Cajun, I am probably related to you, as this population was relatively isolated by geography, culture, and religion for many years. I have traced branches of my family tree in Canada back to the 1640s.  Madonna is also related to Celine Dion, Hilary Clinton, and Camilla Parker Bowles (wife of Prince Charles).  I do not know if I am related to those people, too, yet.....


Why Genealogy?

Top Five Reasons to Research Your Family Tree:

1.  Self- discovery.

 To quote Plato, "Know Thyself." You can never really know where you are going in life unless you understand where you came from.  Do you know the names of all your great-grandparents?  Unless you are from Kentucky, there are eight of them. Where did they live?  What were their occupations? How many children did they have?  How old where they when they got married?  How many times were they married?! Those eight people made choices that directly impacted your very existence.  Many people never get to meet their great-grandparents, genealogy is a great way to "meet" them!

2.  Pride.

Before I started to research my family tree, I always assumed that I was a second or third generation American.  I was a political science and history major in college.  I have always admired the American political system and enjoyed studying its history, but had never felt a personal connection to those "stories."  I have uncovered branches of my family tree that go all the way back to Colonial times.  In a way, I now feel more "American."

3.  Don't make fun of Canadians.

If Lucille Cottingham Holly Sommers is your grandma, you are 1/4 Canadian. Start watching hockey! Own it.

4.  It's in our Jeans Genes

I have had an autosomal DNA test done at  If you and I are related, we share DNA passed down by our commons ancestor(s).  My DNA testing not only reconfirmed genealogical information, but provided a health and trait report which informed me of my carrier status for genetic diseases, likely drug responses and disease risks. The site also matches you up with "relatives."  More on this later!

5.  You get to be a detective.

Our family tree is twisted (in more ways than one)!  I enjoy solving problems and doing research.  Nothing is more thrilling to me than to uncover something new.  Genealogy has been a great hobby for me, especially on those LONG Indiana winter days or when baby is napping. One word of warning: when researching your family tree, you may not always like what you find.  The best thing about studying history is that you can learn from the mistakes of your ancestors.  History does not have to be repeated.


Welcome family and friends! As many of you know, I have been researching my family tree for about three years now.  Many of you have requested information from me, so I decided to create a blog as an easy way to communicate all that I have discovered.  I do plan on eventually publishing a family tree book for each family line.  Trust me, our family's story is NOT boring.
Thank you for reading, be sure to check back often for updates.  Also, please feel to make comments and share any information that you have.  This is YOUR family tree, too!