DNA: FamilyTreeDNA launches Family Finder

Are you ready for the next revolution in genetic genealogy?

FamilyTreeDNA.com has announced its new Family Finder. The test will be available in mid-March.

“This is the most exciting genetic genealogy breakthrough since the company launched its Y-DNA test, which uncovered relatives in the direct paternal line,” says Bennett Greenspan, FamilyTreeDNA founder and president, in an email to company project administrators today.

The science is simple: linked blocks of DNA across the 22 autosomal chromosomes are matched between two people. The degree of matching yields evidence for the relationship.

A limited number of the company’s current customers are being offered the Family Finder Test during the pre-launch. The company anticipates a general release of the test in mid-March for $249.

For more information, click here.

Here are some features:

While the Y-DNA matches men with a specific paternal line, and the mtDNA finds potential relatives only along the maternal line, Family Finder can look for close relationships along all ancestral lines.

You may now match to male and female cousins from any of your family lines within five generations. The science behind it uses linked blocks of DNA across the 22 autosomal chromosomes and matches them between two people. Based on this concept, our bioinformatics team has worked extensively to develop the calculations that would tell you the closeness of the relationship.

The possibilities include: Aunts and uncles, parent and grandparents, half-siblings and first, second, third and fourth cousins. Possibly even fifth cousins and beyond

When you take the Family Finder test, your results are compared against our Family Finder database. You will be able to: sort your matches by degree of relationship, view their names and e-mail address for immediate communication and download your raw data.

— Match with five generations of family

With the new Family Finder test, discover connections to descendants of all 16 of your great-great-grandparents! As it opens avenues for traditional research, discover hidden connections that could explain a family’s migrations.

— Adoptees discover their heritage

With the power of an autosomal DNA test, confidently match to male and female cousins from any of your family lines, which can provide clues to learn more about your biological parents’ families. Every adopted person, or those who know that one of their parents or grandparents was adopted, will want to order a Family Finder test to help identify close and distant relatives.

— Introducing Family Finder Projects

A new way of looking for cousins means a new type of FamilyTreeDNA.com project:

Family Finder Projects allow for analysis and comparisons between you and all members of a project. Compare all at once with the Family Finder “Viewer” and other genetic analytical tools.

The new test and project tools integrate with an existing Family Tree DNA project to take it to the “next level.”

Surname projects can use Family Finder to better define branches in a family tree. By using Family Finder testing, close Y-chromosome matches without traditional records may be assigned to a pedigree with greater confidence. Even more exciting, surname projects may now bring female cousins into the project as additional evidence.

Regional projects can discover real relationships. Explore lost family connections hidden behind migrations. New clues open avenues for more traditional paper trail research. Those with close or perfect Y-chromosome matches between different surnames can now untangle their relationships.

View a short presentation by FamilyTreeDNA.com founder and president Bennett Greenspan as he explains how the Family Finder test may open doors to the discovery of your close and distant relatives. WATCH NOW.

CAVEAT: For the company’s current customers, the new Family Finder test requires an untouched vial of DNA. If your kit does not have an extra vial on file, FamilyTreeDNA will mail a collection kit for a new FREE DNA extraction. After ordering the test, current customers will be notified by email if a stored vial can be used or a new vial is required.


Jewish orphanages site updated

A website offering information on U.S. Jewish orphanages has been updated.

HNOH-Jewish Orphanages additions include:

The Welcome Page: A link to “Adoption Agencies, Orphanages and Maternity Homes: An Historical Directory.” Volumes 1 and 2 are searchable, listing all U.S. and Canadian orphanages of all religious, ethnic, fraternal and governmental auspices.

Photo Album Page: Correction to the 1939-1940 Bar Mitzvah photo.

Memorial Page: Dates and names added.

Pride of Judea Page: Link to a Pride of Judea Video, circa 1955

Jewish Orphanage Page: Bellfaire URL correction, HOA Finding Aids for Orphanages,new URL for Home for Destitute Jewish Children

Alumni Search Page: New search requests for Shield of David, Bronx, NY; Bellfaire Children’s Home, Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum, Brooklyn, NY

Orphans & Foundling Burials Page: Four new foundling burials listed in the Deborah Nursery Plot, Bayside Cemetery

Federal & State Census Page: (four new Federal Censuses added) 1900 Helping Hand Temporary Home for Destitute Jewish Children,Roxbury, MA (63 names); 1910 Helping Hand Temporary Home for Destitute Jewish Children, Roxbury, MA (76 names); 1920 Home for Destitute Jewish Children Dorchester, MA (176 names);
1930 Home for Destitute Jewish Children Dorchester, MA (106 names).

Jewish Resources Page: New URLs corrected/added.

Other Resources Page: New URLs corrected/added.

For more information, send an email.

Genealogy tracks rare disease

Genealogy Insider posted a fascinating piece on how a neurologist used genealogical resources to track a rare genetic disease found in just five families globally.

Pallido-Ponto-Nigral-Degeneration (PPND) strikes its middle-aged victims with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; they usually die within eight years.

The discoverer, Dr. Zbigniew K. Wszolek was a board-certified neurologist in Poland before he came to the US, and was repeating his residency in Omaha, Nebraska for his American credentials.

Sarah Bott, born in 1854 in Iowa, seems to be the common ancestor.

The story was in Montana’s Great Falls Tribune:

Though the nerve damage caused by the faulty gene is similar to that of Alzheimer’s, a disease affecting millions of Americans, there are only five families in the world burdened with the similar but rare affliction that Sarah Bott’s family inherited. The American family is by far the largest.

The other four families — one French, two Japanese and one Irish-American family discovered just last year — have no genetic link to each other or to the American family.

In the United States, Dr. Zbigniew K. Wszolek has traced this unfortunate legacy back to 1854, when Bott, an Iowa farm girl, was born.

Now, eight generations removed, the affected family lives in 11 states —Washington, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Kansas and Missouri.

Wszolek, a neurologist, traced the family back to the 1730s in colonial Virginia and hoped he’d trace it back to Europe.

“But I suddenly realized that Sarah Bott’s parents both died in old age. All fourgrandparents all lived long lives,” Wszolek said.

The doctor knew the disorder was autosomal dominant, meaning that one parent of the affected individual must have been the carrier, and if they had lived long enough, would have died from it. Symptoms appear around age 43.

Wszolek investigated Sarah’s husband, Samuel Newell, who remarried after she died and had a second family. Samuel, his parents and his children all lived long lives, which meant that the genetic glitch had occurred with Sarah. She died in surgery at age 30 and did not live long enough to see the symptoms, although four of her five children were crippled in middle age and died a few years later.

In 1987, a distant relative of the Montana family appeared in Wszolek’s Nebraska office.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the medications normally prescribed weren’t working for the man and he went to Wszolek for a third opinion. He learned that the man’s sister, his mother and uncle died of the same symptoms, and the doctor became curious, as Parkinson’s is rarely hereditary.

“So I started in my spare time to investigate this family,” he said. “I had four generations with four affected — very tiny pedigree,” Wszolek said.

He traveled to Arizona to look at the uncle’s autopsy; he examined the Mormon genealogy archives in Salt Lake City. He also contacted the University Hospitals in Iowa City, where he discovered a grandmother had died in 1942, but officials told him that her medical records had been lost.

As his patient continued to crumble, Wszolek seemed to be at a standstill. Then a University of Iowa doctor told Wszolek he was treating a woman with similar symptoms who also had several family members plagued by this mystery brain disease.

Wszolek couldn’t link them genetically, but his fascination with this case led him to turn down a neurology fellowship in the UK, and instead he went to the University of Iowa.

In the basement of University Hospitals, Wszolek found the grandmother’s records. She was adopted and had grown up with the name Jones, but her biological mother was Sarah Bott. He cross-checked his colleague’s patient’s records and found that Sarah was her great-grandmother. The family tree went from 20 to more than 300 people.

The doctor began spending his vacations and weekends travelling the country, mapping the family and documenting victims on an 11-foot family tree. There are today 315 living descendants in 11 states; 48 have PPND.

Read the complete story here, and learn how readers can assist with the research by contributing to a fund to cover research trips to Mayo Clinics in Minnesota and Florida. Click here for a related story on how the Montana relatives are living with this.

Read the Genealogy Insider blog post for online family health history resources.

Adoption: DNA solves a mystery

It only took 26 years, but Richard Hill now knows both his biological parents. Solving the family history puzzle took DNA testing, sibling testing, adoption file unsealing, lots of detective work and help from some specialized sources, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Richard Hill’s father, on his deathbed, revealed a secret to his 32-year-old son: Richard was an adopted child.

The younger Mr. Hill was quickly able to learn who his biological mother was. But cracking the identity of his birth father — shrouded in cover ups, lies and false trails — took 26 years. In the end, Mr. Hill solved the mystery with the help of sophisticated DNA-based genealogy tests.

For most people who practice it, genetic genealogy is a hobby. But as the tests grow more powerful, people are starting to unearth family secrets. Many offspring of sperm-donor fathers are using Internet-based DNA searches to locate their so-called biodads. Others hope to identify unknown family members by connecting DNA profiles with last names.

In men, the Y chromosome is passed on from generation to generation, from father to son. So, usually, are last names. Accordingly, men with a close Y-chromosome match are more likely to have the same last name. A handful of Web-based businesses now offer DNA searches for male adoptees. Genetic searches along female lines are possible, but less effective, in part because many women take their husbands’ names when they marry.

Hill tested with FamilyTreeDNA.com and found a genetic match, but his search started back in 1978, before anyone had thought of genetic genealogy.

Over the years, Hill investigated Detroit (where his mother was from), determined his mother’s name, found people who had known her, found a half-brother and that his mother had died at 21 back in 1947. The search for his biological father was more complicated as his mother left many misleading clues.

Hill now has a website, DNA Testing Adviser, where he provides advice on family trees and adoption searches. He was helped by Jeanette Abronowitz, founder of Adoptees Search for Knowledge in Michigan, which claims it has helped some 2,000 adoptees find one or both birth parents.

After numerous wrong turns, he learned about FamilyTreeDNA and sent off a cheek swab resulting in one perfect match, whose surname figured in his mother’s background.

He also received help from a Michigan genealogical society, discovering that the possible biological father had four brothers. He went to Genetrack Biolabs in Vancouver BC for DNA sibling tests and asked a son of each brother to be tested at his cost.

Read the complete article here.

DNA: Solving adoption mysteries

While DNA tests seem to attract family historians, there’s another side to genetic genealogy – helping adoptees find their biological families.

Howard Wolinsky focused on just this issue in this online article in March’s Ancestry Magazine.

Jeff Brickman always joked that he was a Scottish Jew. Really, he had no idea about his birth family’s place of origin. But thanks to a DNA test, Jeff found out that his joke answer might be right.

With blue eyes, straight, light brown hair, freckles, and light skin, Jeff Brickman never blended in at family gatherings.

Standing 5′ 8″, he towered over his dad’s family, where everyone had curly, dark brown hair and brown eyes. And in his mom’s family, the brown-eyed men stood tall at 6’ 4” and 6′ 6.”

I just don’t look like anyone in my family,” says Jeff, who grew up with a Jewish family in Phoenix and Boston. There was a reason he looked different from his parents, who were of Eastern European Jewish origin. Jeff had been adopted.

The story discusses the Y-DNA and mtDNA testing conducted at FamilyTreeDNA.com.

“I’m not looking for my parents. The whole interest for me was where I’m from genetically. Why do I look the way I do?”

In addition to confirm family relationships or learn about deep ancestry, male adoptees can find their paternal lines. Jeff had his Y-DNA (male) and mtDNA (female) tested.

According to FamilyTreeDNA’s adoption expert Max Blankfeld – also VP of operations and marketing – says 30-35% of adoptees who use his service “end up finding their biological paternal line, which means that they get to know what their paternal surname would be if they were not adopted.” He stresses that the Y-DNA test is not a paternity test.

Jeff ’s testing showed 15 matches, including close ones—and some surprises.

Blankfeld told Jeff that based on Y-DNA testing, he could say “with almost 100 percent certainty that your biological paternal line was a Beall and that line was of Scottish ancestry.”

Regarding his maternal line, Blankfeld said he is probably of Jewish ancestry as the genetic signature is consistent with several people who have stated Jewish ancestry and others from Eastern Europe, and added:

Interestingly, since from the Jewish perspective the maternal line is what counts for one to be Jewish, you are not outside the group in your family get-togethers.”

Jeff’s in the military and will be deloyed to Iraq. His wife is making a blanket of Beall tartan to take with him, and Jeff said he may have a tartan kipa also to combine his family traditions.

He’s contacted some Bealls online and been welcomed; the story details some of those connections.

All Jeff knows is that he was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1970.; the adoption files were destroyed in a fire. He’s run a Google search on Columbus Bealls but the list is long. It is possible that through this search he might find his biological father and possibly his biological mother. What would he say if he ever meets them?

“I would say to them, ‘Thank you for giving me to a wonderful family. ’ And the only question I would have is ‘What were the circumstances?’ And that’s it. I’m not looking for my parents. That’s not why I did it.”

Read the complete story at the link above.

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Seattle: Stephanie Weiner, Oct. 8-9

Stephanie Weiner is an avid genealogist who presents at IAJGS conferences. She will be speaking on two very different topics for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State and the Jewish Education Council in Seattle.

During dinner with a relative who was a Holocaust survivor, she began gathering family information, scribbling madly on paper napkins. She has graduated from napkins to a software program but continues, 27 years later, to add data to her family tree. Weiner is a librarian for San Diego County (California) Library and has taught online genealogy searching to staff members and the public. A Jewish adoptee, she has been active in adoption issues for 22 years.

At 7 p.m. Monday, October 8, Weiner will present “Doing the One-Step in Ancestry.com,” sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State, and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, she will present “Judaism, Adoption and Assisted Reproduction,” in conjunction with the Jewish Education Council. Both programs are at the Stroum JCC, Mercer Island. See below for more details on each topic.

“Doing the One-Step in Ancestry.com” will enable participants to learn some of the Steve Morse One-Step tools that provide alternate ways of accessing U.S. census and immigration information on Ancestry.com. The program is appropriate for both newcomers and experienced genealogists.

Searchable databases found on the Web can provide useful information to genealogists. Unfortunately, many websites are not easy to use; they don’t always offer all the versatility that is possible. Different databases and programs may produce varying results.

She will demonstrate and compare search screens and searchable fields in Ancestry.com and One-Step. If time permits, she will discuss additional Ancestry.com databases.

JGSWS members, free; others, $5.

“Judaism, Adoption and Assisted Reproduction” is suitable for teachers, educators and others interested in these issues. Weiner will speak about genealogical problems faced by adoptees and AR children. These include family trees in classroom situations, personal timelines, heritage exploration and genetic traits charts.

How many times were you – as a child – asked to draw a family tree? What about a timeline of major life events or a report about your culture or heritage? Learn how these common assignments can be challenging for adopted children and families who have chosen assisted reproduction – and solutions to these challenges.

For details or to register, email Tammy Kaiser, tammyk@jewishinseattle.org, for more information. Cost: $10.

For both events, photo ID is needed to enter the JCC.

For more information, click here or email JGSWS president Lyn Blyden, president@jgsws.org.