14th International Genetic Genealogy Conference – Saturday

**As always, please note that these are my raw conference notes. Feel free to read them, typos and all! I do my best to capture as much as possible for our many group administrators. I am having trouble getting all the pictures to load. I’ll fix it up later. For now, here’s what I’ve got.

Max welcomed everyone to the 14th International Genetic Genealogy Conference. He recognized all of the administrators who have passed on since the last conference.

Bennett talked about a reporter who wrote an article stating things that are not true without checking with them first. The reporter did not care whether it was factual or not, but published. Bennett learned things about the press that he wished he hadn’t.

During this past week, Bennett was invited by the Democrat Attorney Generals Association, who were having a policy meeting on Thursday and decided the changing landscape of DNA testing would be interesting for the AGs to know about. He explained that about 20 years ago he started a company specifically for genetic genealogy and then he added that they’re going to talk about the intersection of genetic genealogy and law enforcement. He showed two slides providing a genetic genealogy timeline.

Bennett shared that in the fall, they caught kits failing the process. They reached out to the email and got a call from an FBI agent who stated that he was as zealous about his job as any type A professional. He told Bennett that he would continue to subpoena.

He showed the AGs what kind of information is shared, such as names, shared cMs, longest block, and provided ancestral surnames. He shared data on DNA, law enforcement, and minorities. Bennett reviewed some of the cases that resulted in arrests. Bennett said, “Every one of these has made me feel that history is on our side.” He believes we have societal responsibilities to each other and one of them is to make sure that we can live in our society free from the terror of those who would kill us and rape our daughters and wives and otherwise abuse us and make us live in a society where you lock your door instead of say hello to your kids. We have the ability to solve those problems… We can crowd source the solution too the problem and I intend to do that. I intend to do that because I believe it’s the right thing to do. While protecting our privacy is paramount, you cannot effectively fight a subpoena. You live in a country that gives us broad freedoms but those freedoms come with a small price tag. If there is probable cause … they can get a court order and so you know at this point I’m just going to end.” Bennett then introduced John Shimp from the local FBI to talk to us today. John wants to go public on some cases that are really close but Bennett asked him not to.

John Shimp said they don’t know what it’s called so they’re calling it IG “Investigative Genealogy.” The FBI Houston area covers a broad area, including 4.6 million in Harris County. They have thousands of serious violent crimes against persons cases. “Getting involved in this this early in the game is good for us.” John is the Supervisor of the Violent Crime Squad. They investigate things like bank robberies, armored car robberies, commercial robberies, kidnapping, carjacking, fugitives, school shootings, and police assistance. Police assistance means telephone analysis, overseas activities, specialty teams (ERT, SWAT), lab production (he says is the best LE lab in the world), behavior analysis unit, ViCAP (violent criminal apprehension program), and cold case review.

Cold case is probably something that has gone on for years. You’ve taken all of the regular steps and you haven’t come up with anything. Cold cases were thought to be the perfect crime but cold case review reviews lab production to try to provide a better result. It also uses BAU, federal databases, a second set of eyes, and potentially new techniques. Fingerprints are very important to law enforcements. In 1858, the world starting using fingerprints for civil contracts in India. In the 1890, there’s an article that says that people are distinguishable by fingerprints. In 1903, the William West case from Leavenworth Prison where two different people named William West and Will West who look the same, the guards think they are the same person. They used a body measurement system called the Bertillon method and they matched the same. They were from the same area of the country. However, their fingerprints were completely different. In 1921, the FBI adopted a fingerprint program for the country. In 1980, they automated it and put it in computer systems.

John gave background on the April Tinsley case. She was abducted and raped by John Miller. From 1990-2004, John Miller left letters on kids bicycles, sometimes with a used condom. He wrote on a barn door, “I’m the killer of April Tinsley. Have you found the other shoe.” John read about the case and realized the technique was new to him. John shared that he got straight Cs at Texas Tech University. The attendees laughed.

They were able to match the used condoms on a child bicycle and determine it was the same person who raped and killed April Tinsley. Then they compared those and that’s how they found John Miller. They knocked on his door and asked him to come to the station. They asked him if he knew why they were there and he said because of April Tinsley.

After reading April Tinsley, he went back to his squad and said he wanted to do this. Requirements for IG include funding, single contributor samples, relationships within the community, exhausted other techniques (squad requirement), and corroborating evidence. Funding is a big problem. Finding good DNA cases without mixed DNA, to find a perfect clean sample, such as in the John Miller case. Breaking into the community (our genealogical community) is not easy to do. The April Tinsley case agent referred him to a guy in LA and he said to him that they’d get them figured out. John and that LA person have become the FBIs point people. He introduced John to a person who can do and she has “literally by the internet held my hand and held the FBI Houston’s hand. It’s finding those people who are passionate and want to assist. It’s got to be a two-way trust. I have to trust her and she has to trust me.” He also has to trust that the information she is giving him is right. “Stop. I don’t understand this. I just need to know what I need to do next.” Another thing that he requires on his squad is because this is a new technique, that they have exhausted every other means. They are following the normal investigative steps. It’s important in the development of this, to realize that not every case is a genealogy case. As far as corroborating evidence, they don’t want the family tree to go to the judge. They are able to get things through CODIS direct match, taking out the family tree that has been built. If there isn’t corroborating evidence, it might not be the best case to use genealogy on. No one wants the genealogy to be the only thing locking this person up. They have to take a full picture of everything they have.

What they are currently using it for is unidentified remains and serial cases, preferably cold cases. That means serial rape cases, and other cases involving serial people, not just murder. We have to start slow. We have to start with success. Unidentified remains has been very successful in Houston.

Why? It gives closure for the families. John Miller can’t do anything to anyone ever again. Every 10 days you’re going to see a genealogy case in the news, whether it’s from LA or New York or wherever. More and more victim families are requesting that this be done. They want to identify and arrest the unknown offenders. It’s cost effective. There are cold cases that have been cold for 25 or 30 years that were solved in 45 minutes through genealogy. How many investigators hands did that case go through and how many resource hours were spent? Thousands and thousands of dollars. The cost of the test and the cost of the ancestry account and it was solved. “I believe the right thing to do is put the money here in this program to help develop it and help perfect the program. It’s me and this guy in Las Angeles have really pushed this thing to a next level.”

Houston model is first they work closely with state and local LE. Then they work very close with private lab partners, whether it be here in Houston or in Oklahoma City and they’re trying to develop the actionable leads. Then they develop actionable leads and corroborate information.

What’s next? DNA testing is developing. More offices are getting involved. They are continuing to build relationships. He doesn’t go a five-day workweek without a call from a big office to explain the benefit. “There is gold in here. Gold is never on the top layer but you’ve got to start digging. There is benefit in this.” They have married their private lab to a conference here where they were able to interact with the private lab and have discussion. Finally, “in twenty years there might be a violent crime squad doing a side hustle in genealogy.” In twenty years, I can definitely see us moving in that direction. We have the experts that can testify and it’s within its own private funded 5-6 person team rather than him and a couple of folks doing this at night on their computers.

Max introduced Amy McGuire of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy and said that her talk will answer the question about whether they do is popular or not. Amy is a lawyer with a PdD in Ethics.

There has been a vigorous debate about this new use of genetic genealogy for LE purposes. Amy polled the room, asking how many are completely comfortable. Many raised their hands. When she asked how many had some concerns, a sizeable minority raised their hands. At least one person felt they should not do it at all.

There have been big debates in the law enforcement databases about whether LE should even use the CODIS database for familial searching. That has gained a lot of attention—whether it’s violating the privacy of the relatives who are not the accused.

For the GSK, they uploaded the profile and acted as if they were the person whose DNA it was. They got genealogy matching, built a family tree, then followed the leads until they identified DeAngelo. They collected his discarded tissue and profiled that DNA to match to the crime scene DNA. This case and the many subsequent cases over the last year have gotten a lot of publicity and have been the subject of much debate.

On the one hand, it’s great that we can catch people who have done horrific things and bring justice to them. On the other side, LE is now having access to people’s DNA by imputation, their relatives DNA who they may not even know because they are distant relatives.

Amy said that a positive that is often cited is that the CODIS database and the whole of DNA testing in forensics has been criticized because the criminal justice system is racially biased by minorities. On the flip side, most genetic genealogy databases include people of European descent and of a higher socio-economic status that can afford the extra money to buy a test.

Amy Erlich did a study that looked at how many people could be implicated currently. About 60% of the searchers for individuals of European descent could be identified. This has raised the question about why we don’t have a national DNA registry. That has been taken into consideration and there are serious concerns. However, if we want to get to the future being like fingerprinting. That’s an open question.

What are the concerns? They typically come in the form of are you violating privacy and whose? If that person is truly the suspect for serial murders, then arguably they’ve given up their right to privacy. Are you violating the privacy of the individual who might be a relative? Did they know it was a potential use? Did they make the decision to put their DNA there knowing this?

Also, there are false leads. You identify the subject then LE has to investigate those leads and they could go down the wrong path. Amy shared the case in New Orleans of the filmmaker who was falsely accused. He was eventually cleared but it took about a month. There were also some false leads in the GSK case before they identified DeAngelo.

There are some legal considerations. Some legal scholars vehemently came out against this practice, stating that it’s a violation of the 4th amendment. That’s the most developed argument that Amy has seen. It protects against unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant and probable cause. In this case, they are doing a fishing expedition, not knowing if there is anyone there for whom they have probable cause or not. There’s an exception under the 4th amendment called the third party doctrine. There is a reduced expectation of privacy in information that is knowingly shared with another. In Carpenter v. United States in 2018, it dealt with whether LE could access historical location information without a warrant. If you are knowingly sharing your location by using a cell phone, are you knowingly sharing your DNA with FTDNA? The court ruled that you do need a warrant and that there is an expectation of privacy. However, the ruling was really narrow and they were really careful about not saying anything about the general third-party doctrine. This will likely be unclear for a while. Companies can get around that by fully informing consumers.

Amy participated in a national survey published in PLOS that surveyed over 1500 people using Amazon Mechanical Turk. Participants were 18 years + and paid $0.25 US to complete the survey. They only surveyed those with approval ratings above 92%. They used attention check questions.

They also included a question about cell phone records and social media accounts to gauge the comparison.

These questions were asked right after the GSK hit the media and everyone was enthusiastic. They were criticized because people were thinking about that case and not the downsides of privacy. Females were more likely to support. There were no significant difference between those who had purchased a genetic genealogy kit or not. There were also no differences based on experience with law enforcement whether as a victim or a criminal.

Amy compared the results of Maurice Gleeson’s study.

Any reviewed industry practices. 23andMe and Ancestry will resist law enforcement. They will only release customer information with a valid search warrant or court order. Their terms state you can only submit information for yourself. GEDmatch has said they explicitly allow LE to upload crime scene DNA. Customers are told this will happen during TOS. FTDNA has taken the middle ground and Amy said she really loves this. They allow their customers to opt out.

Amy talked about some other potential non-law enforcement uses of genetic genealogy databases. Some things that were brought to her attention include:

  • Russian counter-espionage division re-identifies DNA traces from a covert operation by the CIA.
  • Hactivist re-identifies participants in a national research study like All of Us
  • Adoptees identify biological parent and/or other biological relatives
  • Individuals identify anonymous sperm donor and/or half siblings who are the product of donation

Amy talked about a recent case in the media who identified the anonymous sperm donor who she was inseminated with. She had additional vials. Because she identified the donor, against policy, they took back the additional samples.

What are we doing as next steps? Two things are potentially going to happen. Amy thinks we will start to see more regulation around this. How the industry itself responds will probably guide how much regulation there is. Amy said that Max said they are trying to put together a conference among the companies to discuss this to get some standards in the industry.


Max mentioned that first case of sperm donor solved in their database in 2005

What happens when LE seek a suspect in the political front? If you have seen exactly the process that the LE needs to go through in order to submit a sample, there is not a chance for this to happen.

If Adam opts out of LE matching, LE will not see the match. Will Adam see the match? YES

Will Adam know it’s a LE sample? NO

Are you (your squad) working with the ones who look at prisoners and DNA use? Bennett said the third speaker on the panel Thursday was a professor who was with the Innocence Project at this prior job.

Why is the default for the US set to yes when the EU default is no? We are following strictly the rules of the game. The GDPR has it clearly that this is the way they want people to be in the database. They are opted out and have to be opted in. Besides that, Bennett is eager to tell you about something else. Bennett said their attorney said it’s custom in the US for everyone to be included and opt out. What Max thought Bennett was going to say is that he doesn’t think anyone here wants their company spending their time going through subpoenas because everyone is opted out of the database and the only way for them to see matches is for them to constantly… they would be doing nothing but working on subpoenas.

Bennett said please realize this is unsolicited. They were told they could either work with them or in effect or live in a state of perpetual subpoena. One percent of the database has opted out as of yesterday. They were told if too many people opt out, they can go to court and they are trying to game the system and they will just get a subpoena. In 1992 or 1993 Bennett sat on a federal grand jury two days a week for 19 months. That’s a lot of time to give up and he saw it first hand.

I get questions about LE matching. What does browse a specific profile mean? Bennett said he doesn’t know what that means. In the case of LE, they probably only care about the first match.

In 2001/2002 FTDNA told all customers that the results are private and only seen by matches. Max said let him make it clear. This was the source of all the problem. The FBI does not have open access to the database. What they are doing so all your records are private from 2001 until today. What the FBI has access to, like adoptees have access to, like you have access to, is matches. They get to see the information that you have put out there for matching purposes. Do you want them to do it anonymously or transparently that we should verify before we upload it to the databases. We’d rather do it in a transparent way to determine that they are doing it to solve a rape or horrendous crime. Your records are still private the same way it’s always been.

Are presentations available? Amy said hers can be made available and will send the PLOS link.

What about potential access to DNA results by insurance companies? Amy said this is an issue people worry about. There are federal laws that protect people from health insurance companies and employers through GINA and what’s currently the Affordable Care Act. Where there are a lot of concerns are life, long-term disability, etc. There is no protection in those plans and they ask a lot of questions. That’s how they do their risk assessments. That’s currently how the system works. Amy does not know of cases of them trying to access the databases. If they ask and you lie, they’ll deny coverage later on so that’s more likely.

What are the odds collecting DNA at the crime scene from a person who did not commit the crime? It happens all the time. If it’s in the crime scene area, it will be collected.

Privacy concerns – How does the use of DNA in investigations compare to facial investigations? John does not have the capability to do facial recognition but technology is improving. It’s going to come but I don’t know if it’s there yet.

How will privacy settings change when the CA privacy act comes in force? Bennett doesn’t know. He met the AG from CA on Thursday. The AG asked for Bennett’s business card.

Do you anticipate LE access to increase consumer costs? Bennett said no.

As group administrators, what kind of obligation do we have to reveal the identity of anyone in our project who is related to the case? Max said if anyone is investigating the case and they come to someone where they have some idea might be related or know the person and nock on the door and ask the person for information, Max doesn’t know what they can do to obtain information related to someone else. John said he has not been presented with that situation yet. They really just keep following cM until they can get down to the unidentified remain or offender. Houston has not reached out to anyone within a tree or family to say, “Hey, you’re this to us so can you help us?”

Do you expect the CODIS database will be expanded to include autosomal? Bennett said he was told no because they don’t have to. It’s a lot more efficient to go in the databases than build their own. John added that the idea of CODIS is for direct match. It’s a set and forget tool until you have a direct match. He is not speaking for CODIS engineers or FBI lab but that’s what it’s used for.

What about people who have passed away? What are their rights to privacy? Amy said this is an interesting philosophical question. There’s huge literature on this. In the healthcare area, the only thing you have is a right to privacy under HIPPA. There is a legal way of recognizing their right to privacy after they pass away. There’s certainly a right to their family members. After someone passes away, we would want to confer with their next of kind but she doesn’t know if FTDNA has any practices. Amy said the next of kin usually has an interest in the DNA but it’s not a full right.

How does FTDNA validate the basis of the FBI requests for access? Max said they have clearly on their website provided guidelines for law enforcement in the learning center. It states very clearly all the rules of engagement. You can look for it online.

If we ever considered involving the ACLU when the issue arose? Have you heard from them? Max said no. Their consideration was to talk to privacy lawyers and not just any privacy lawyers. They hired top dollar privacy lawyers to help them go through this process. The next step is to have another phone call on Thursday where they will have additional homework for them so there will likely be changes to the privacy policy in the coming weeks. They will notify by email or in the personal pages. They also put together a citizens panel of seven people deep inside genetic genealogy and they decided to include Amy since she can provide input. This will be an ad-hoc panel. They will have a small gathering to discuss the next steps related to the citizens panel.

What limits of protection do you have against law enforcement? What crimes? Bennett said murder and sexual assault. Period. The reason they came clean with this is so that they can tell us that. They are going to watch the hen house. They are going to set up rules and follow those rules rather than let the FBI and any third party sleuther upload to our database.

Do identical twins have different fingerprints? Do different hands differ? John is not sure but he thinks they don’t have the same.

What about military? Do you have access to military databases? John said he does with request. He can reach out to St. Louis service center.

How does the reasonable expectation of privacy come into play into FTDNA’s worldwide database of results?

Anonymity vs. privacy, please explain. Amy said anonymity is a misnomer. All we can do is try to protect privacy.

People knew the rules when they put their info in the database. What about when the rules change? Bennett said they were able to obtain 600 news articles all around the world announcing this. That’s a fair amount of publicity on a change.

What can we do to ensure that gents understand that being a 1750 cM match is not a match and they should be eliminated as a suspect? They follow the information where it goes. No one in the tree is considered a suspect. There are times you will never know your DNA was collected in a very private manner. Just because you are a very high cM match, it does not mean you are a subject or a suspect. They might take that information later and develop areas of target testing. If a tree has 140 people, they don’t have time or resources to interview all of those people. Bennett talked about genetic witness. Unless you are a 3300 cM match, you are not a suspect. A thousand cM match is a first cousin, not a suspect. They are a genetic witness. Someone mentioned informant but Bennett says witness.

If a customer matches out of the FTDNA matching to LE, wouldn’t FTDNA subpoena that? No, they’ll move on to the next match in observation mode. Max added that if the person opted out, the FBI will not even know about that person.

James M. Irvine presented “GDPR and the Project Administrator.” GDPR is the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation 679, 2016. The primary objective is to protect EU residents against the misuse of their personal data.

Every person in the EU has certain statutory rights. These include things like the right to withhold/withdraw consent, right to be informed, right of access, right of rectification, right to be forgotten, and right to complain direct to their “supervisory authority.” These rights involve more complex paperwork for members, admins, and testing companies.

There is a lot of GDPR terminology and it’s ambiguous.

James reviewed the applicability of GDPR to DNA Project Administrators.

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James did an analysis of the “Possible categorisation of DNA proejct admins under GDPR.” He shared that the GDPR can impose sanctions for infringements, e.g. if a supervisory authority upholds a complaint. “Controllers” are liable for damage suffered. Fines up to 4% of total worldwide annual turnover can be imposed.

When GDPR first came out, ISOGG was concerned. Several worked to fix the website and also to assist FTDNA on an insurance basis, to make sure they do what they are supposed to. They had to respect the rights of the individual members. The biggest concern is to give guidance to administrators.

In March 2018, ISOGG provided Interim Guidance on GDPR for Project Admins. Best practice would be to go overboard with small print but this is good practice. They’ve looked at the obvious implications. They have not looked it at from a legal point of view and don’t have money to hire one. It’s been online for a year and they haven’t had any substantial criticism.

There were six action items they came across.

  1. List of “Don’t”s to minimize complaints.
  2. List of “Do”s to minimize complaints.
  3. A pro-forma Project Privacy Statement.
  4. Actions in event of a data request.
  5. Actions in event of a data breach.
  6. Actions in event of a complaint.

James had a file where he had all the email addresses in the same file with all of the data. That is specifically prohibited. It could be bad if you hit the wrong button. You’ve got to separate those.

The other thing that’s come up is now that FTDNA has given the option to opt-out and members don’t want to share, you have to do that. It would have been good housekeeping to do it before.

Say why you’re handling the data. Say you are doing it to achieve the project goals. Keep them up to date. Use a password. If you leave your laptop open on the bus and forget it, you could be in trouble. If it’s password protected, you’ve taken precaution.

If you do get into trouble, pass it onto FTDNA and they’ll be able to sort it out. Most problems will be between them, anyway. We are only private people.

If you want to be very comfortable, have a privacy statement. James has one that is in his project that he can share. It’s fairly comprehensive. If you haven’t done it, you should. He won’t volunteer to help everyone draft one, but put what relates to your project.

When something happens, you should report in it in theory. For example, if you lost your laptop. Moral is to have a password so it’s not acceptable. If you think you’re a controller and you have a data breach, you have 72 hours to report it. Don’t ever call yourself a controller.

The complaints are processed based on location. It is the place of residence of the complaining member that matters, not the place of residence of the project administrator.

James is confident that he has maintained his secondary website for the Irwin Project website. He’s got 97% of his project that have agreed to share data of the approximately 500 members.

There are some responses to GDPR by national authorities. Germany has the BDSG. Ireland has the Data Protection Act. UK at the Data Protection Act. The US has legislation along the lines of GDPR enacted in California (CCPA), Colorado & Hawaii; federal legislation is under consideration. In 10 months time, California will enact the CCPA that they’re still drafting. As far as he can tell, it’s not going to be any more onerous than GDPR.

There have been quite a few responses to GDPR by the wider DNA community. Ancestry launched a privacy policy 14 December 2017. FTDNA launched 23 May 2018. My Heritage 24 May 2018 and updated 11 October. DNAGEDCOM updated privacy policy 23 May 2018 and GEDmatch 20 May 2018. World Families was a casualty of GDPR.

James mentioned the Future of Privacy Forum but I missed what he said.

FPF’s Best Practices for Consumer Genetic Testing Services (2018). Two examples are prohibited sharing and deletion. For example, if deletion is requested, companies should remove or restrict access to Genetic Data when deletion is not possible due to legal or technical restrictions.

The take away message is that all projects should have a policy statement.


Max said maybe it’s a good idea to send an email to group members to tell them FTDNA had to opt them out and if they want, they have the option to opt back in. They have a few thousand that have already noticed and opted back in.

Would you share your excel format? James said certainly or it’s online but that’s not the format. If you give card, he will email it.

Can we purchase the format? No, it’s free.

Has a project admin been prosecuted on GDPR? James said certainly not. There is not even a complaint. If you follow interim guidance, you won’t.

Can we have a list as long as we don’t list the tester or his family? Deceased people you can do anything you like with. Living people, be more careful. Chances of a complaint are small.

You have consent from 97%. James said yes, five times he reached out.

Would it get a copy of spreadsheet combined with lineage? See him for a case by case basis.

How will Brexit impact? He doesn’t think it will. It’s the law.

Are your slides online? They can be made available on a specific page.

Does GDPR affect testers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand? If you’re from those, it’s the same as America.

What about kit admin if I have a sponsored, paid for, autosomal kits for a European cousin? Autosomal DNA is more complicated. James is not an expert. Be careful. Basically, you must not put anything out that has the data with the email address and name.

We cannot see dead kits. They cannot opt in. Those kits before May 25th. How can they be opened? Max said if anyone has an idea to enter the dead people, let them know. James said if the admin is still alive and their name is against the kit, you’re getting into a grey area.

After lunch, Bennett introduced Kenyatta Berry. Kenyatta mentioned that her father passed away yesterday. Kenyatta has been doing genealogy for 20 years. Fourteen months ago, she left her full-time job to do genealogy full-time. Kenyatta shared pictures of her father and his parents.

Kenyatta talked about challenges in African American research. These included enslaved ancestral research. There were four major migrations. In the domestic slave trade, more than 900,000 enslaved individuals were sold from the Upper South to the Lower South. Information wanted consisted of formerly enslaved looing for their family members were sold through slavery. A good source of records from that time are in Freedman’s Bureau.

Kenyatta’s Sellers family went from Culpepper County, Virginia to York, New York. She told the story of land that had been in her property and oil had been found. Since marriage had been illegal, there were cohabitation records.

Kenyatta shared many photos of family she met when she went to the Rochester, NY area. She knew a lot about the family and was able to help reconnect that bridge that had fallen apart when her great-grandmother Esther died.


How do you share information? If you have a unique surname and you find an African American with that unique surname, try to find that person listed in 1870. If it’s Berry or Carter or Jones, look at Freedman’s Records. There are a couple of websites where you can post the information but Kenyatta encourages us to do the research as well.

Freedman’s Bureau Records can be found on FamilySearch.org. The records were organized to rebuild the south. You will find labor contracts, marriage records after laws were passed in 1866 to legitimize the marriages where people were “jumping over the broom.” The other thing you will find are complaints. There were court cases.

Will there be more Genealogy Roadshows? They are in hiatus. They have not been cancelled but they have not been renewed. They don’t have a sponsoring station. Skip Gates has the station in Boston.

Have you worked or met Henry Louis Gates? Did he help you? Kenyatta has met him. He doesn’t do any of his research. He has a very large team for research.

Have you found that wills by slave owners have been helpful? Yes, basically wills are the main place to get information about enslaved people. People will appear in inventories with values attached. It’s also in court cases.

How much weight do you put on oral traditions when documents clearly contradict? One of the things they do on Genealogy Roadshow is prove or disprove? For African American genealogy, you generally go through oral tradition first because of lack of records.

Do you have any tips for Melungeons and tri-racial genealogy? She has not dealt with Melungeons at all. Roberta runs a project.

Connecting owners and enslaved answers is haphazard. Can this be organized to facilitate? It really is haphazard. Kenyatta hoped to start slavegenealogy.com but it’s not funded.

Mags commented that Wikitree does have a slavery project where you can identify your ancestors in Wikitree if they are slave owners. You can identify them by county, town, etc. and there may be information about land grants and other things. Kenyatta added that she is working with universities on Freedom’s Loom, to bring information together online. The challenge is that historians don’t want to share their information after they publish.

Nora mentioned Slave Narratives. Kenyatta confirmed they are online at LOC. Another one is the History of the American Negro and His Institutions by A.B. Caldwell. There are seven volumes.

Another is slavenamerollproject.com

FamilySearch is indexing wills with the names of the enslaved.

Rob Spencer presented The Big Picture of Y-STR Patterns. He thanked Maurice Gleeson, David Langston, and Iain McDonald for their assistance in helping him along. Rob noticed that many projects attempt to zoom in. This allows you to see all kinds of details. When you zoom out, you get context.

Rob shared a dendrogram. A distance dendrogram is not a family tree but it will converge to one with perfect data. That can be proven mathematically. Its data scale is quite good, based on the averages of hundreds of pairwise tMRCAs. Its branch points aren’t ancestors—but they indicate where they might be. Its topology can be wrong—especially where branches are very close in time.

Rob shared information about how to build a dendrogram.


The two types of computer-created trees are maximum parsimony and distance. Maximum parsimony builds a tree with the fewest mutations. It has better topology and is often completely correct. It’s a pattern-matching method and does not include dates. It is computationally complex and limited in scale. Distance trees, which are what Rob builds, builds trees consistent with pairwise distances. Topology may be incorrect in details. It has intrinsic data scale and it is computationally simple.

Rob works almost exclusively with Y-111 kits. He is more interested in computational data than specific ancestors. Rob showed examples of 2850 Y-111 kits in the IrelandDNA project. There were 570 kits with M222.Rob said to expect a common surname only for branches with tMRCA < 25-30 generations. Otherwise, surnames are essentially random. Rob showed how to spot the American immigrant families. He showed how to spot the Bronze Age Expansion. His own project is England GB EIG. About 100 generations, there is a massive founder event for R1b-M269. “With one project’s Y STRs, we can see what the Jobling group saw –plus E-V13 and I2-L126, suggesting a shared history. It suggests that three men who lived during the time were the ancestors of all of these. His computations show that J2a is twice as old. They escaped the early Bronze Age slaughter. David Reich published a paper this week in Science that said they did the same thing in Spain. It replaces everyone in Iberia in the blink of an eye, like it did in Britain, because they killed them all.

Rob showed a graph to spot the clans and septs.

He will talk more about convergence at tomorrow’s breakout.

We can fit experimental tMRCAs to a distribution, separating the statistical noise of the STR process from experimental error. If we use the same model and rates for all analysses, we can compare different datasets with accuracy. These “STR Clade tMRCAs” and dates of expansion, not founding. The nearest corresponding founder SNP may be centuries earlier.

Rob reviewed founding vs. expansion. At low fertitlity rates, the difference between founding and STR group tMRCA can be hundreds of years. In the “fertile patriarch” scenario, the difference cab be less than a generation.

Max introduced Dr. Mike Hammer, who Genomics and The Story of Us.

Part 1: Human Origins

Part II: Europe as a Genetic Palimpsest

Part III: Going Global by Adapting Local – if he has time

In the 1800s, there was no connection for humans on the tree of life. Darwin was interested in attaching the human branch onto the branch that was somewhat related to the African great apes. In the 1900s, the idea was generally well accepted. In the 1960s when the first molecular structures were placed on human origins. After all those years, Darwin was right.

The latest tree shows that not only are we related ot African apes, we are more closely related to chimps and bonobos, and we are 98.8% similar to them.

There is diversity in the Genus Homo.

The traits that we share that make us anatomically modern humans (AMH) are high rounded skull, small brow ridge, large brain/cranium, face tucked under cranial vault, chin on lower jaw, and lightly built skeleton. How did we become anatomically modern? Stringer proposed Recent African Replacement Model and Miford Wolpoff proposed Multiregional Evolution. The multiregional evolution model is more fluid and subtle.

We’ve used genetics and genomics to test these models. We sample widely across living populations to observe the variation we see today. The other way is the direct approach where you can recover DNA from extinct human and directly compare sequences to make inferences about things that happened in the past.

The first study that was done that made a big splash was the Human MtDNA Diversity (1987) that surveyed mtDNA variation in huamns from Africa, Asia, and Europe. The African part of their tree had longer branches. They also were able to date the age of that mitochondrial ancestor.

On January 11, 1988, Newsweek published and coined the term Mitochondrial Eve. It was an unfortunate turn since it sounded somewhat biblical and misrepresented that there was only one.

The next big breakthrough in 1997 was the extraction of mitochondrial DNA from Neandertal bones by Svante Paabo. Neanderthal mtDNA is distinct from modern humans.

They went on in 2008-2009 to analyze the sequence of Neandertal DNA mtDNA falls outside the variation of extant human mtDNA. Dr. Hammer found some nuclear sequences that were outside of these sequences. They published it in specialty journals.

Genetics supported the fossil-based model of AMH. It became the standard model for almost 25 years, from 1987-2009.

Then there was the first complete genome from a Neandertal bone and a tooth found in a Siberian cave in Denisova between Mongolia and Kazakhstan. They found a finger bone and a tooth. They also had bones from Croatian and they were able to get the full DNA. Now they found a new form called Denisovans. They were equally divergent from our species as Neandertals.

When they started coming those with our genome, there were SNPs that were shared between us and Denisovans. They shared more with non-Africans than with Africans. There is 1-4% of this DNA in our genome. The same was found for Denisovans and the greatest sharing is with Melanesians having approximately 4%.

Last year they found an offspring that had a Neandertal-Denisova combination in the same cave. That required a revised model.  With the revised model, we now thin of things as Africa Multiregionalism. We originated from interbreeding among multiple groups in Africa.

If there is interbreeding, has that contributed to phenotypic variation in contemporary humans? Were there important things we acquired that became part of our phenotypic difference?

Denisovan alleles have been found in modern TIbetans. There was a gene carries by Denisovans for altitude adaptation and it’s found in Tibetans. It allows them to cope with the low oxygen environment.

Part II: Europe as a Genetic Palimpsest

We know that about 10,000 years ago there was the start of agriculture in the Neolithic that started in nine different places. Growing food conferred an advantage because the population could grow larger and expand in geographic area.

The traditional view of the two major expansions into Europe had a third mystery component. Over the past five years we’ve talked about getting DNA from graves from the last 5-8 kya. As time has gone on, we have had a growing number of DNA sequences that have been obtained. It’s now up to more than 1300 genome sequences from ancient remains.

Genomics supports Steppe contribution to Bronze Age Europe


Dr. Hammer talked about the Yamnaya genetic contribution to Neolithic European Gene Pool. We can now say that the third component is the steppe contribution to Europe.

The major European haplogroups are R, I, and J. The R1b clade is the most common paternal lineage in Western Europe. There is also history and controversy over R1b. It is carried by more than 110 million European Men. In 2010, Balaresque said it must have come in with the farmers. Busby said it came in after farming.

In 2013, there were grave specimens where we had DNA. R1b was not found in ancient samples dating to about 5 Ky.

In 2014, we had more ancient Y chromosomes. The first R1b was discovered. There were three bronze age samples. We came to the conclusion that mesolithic was I, Neolithic was G, and Metal was R1b, the most common in Europe. Now, it’s accepted in the literature.

Why would R1b have such an advantage? Dr. Hammer speculated at the time that weapons and horses may have conferred advantage to post-Neolithic Steppe invaders.

In 2018 (Juras et al) published that mitochondrial genomes reveal an east to west cline of steppe ancestry in Corded Ware populations. As you move farther from the range, mitochondrial DNA converges. Whatever spread west was dominated by males. IT’s a subtle hint that two different processes might have been happening.

Another study that came out in 2017, Goldberg et al, looked at Ancient X chromosomes reveal contrasting sex bias in Neolithic and Bronze Age Eurasian migrations.


There might have been as many as 5 to 14 migrating males for every migrating female.

Since all of that, David Reich’s group Olalde et all put out another paper. What they did was genotype over a million SNPs and 400 new ancient European samples dating between ~4700 and 800 BCE. 226 of these were Beaker-complex associated individuals. There were 174 from other ancient populations. They compared 683 ancient with 2572 present day individuals. This is archeogenomics.


Large amounts of steppe ancestry in British Beaker individuals contrasts sharply with British Neolithic with no evidence of steppe ancestry. British Neolithic cluster with Middle Neolithic and Copper Age populations from mainland Europe.

They claim that 90% of the British population turned over. These Bronze Age Beaker people displaced the Neolithic Stonehenge people.

Mitochondrial may have come in the same way but in the paper, there’s nothing to back that up. We don’t know if there were female warriors among with male warriors. Perhaps disease had something to do with it.

Part III: Going Global by Adapting Local

What kinds of advantages might these turnovers have offered us? Did we pick up anything useful along the way? What selective pressures did these people encounter? Humans have the tendency to migration and be exposed to new environmental conditions such as UV, soil, water, climate, and pathogens. These lead to favorable adaptation. Skin color is an important adaption and is strongly correlated with UVR. Darker pigmentation is adoptive in regions of high UVR. Lighter is adaptive in regions of lower UVR. Genetic variance that contribute to skin color only number about 20.

There is a single SNP on 15 that explains >30% of skin color difference between W. Africans and Europeans. Another adaptation was lactase persistence. Pastoralism, the cultural practice of milking livestock such as goats, sheep, cows, and camels was another innovation of the Neolithic revolution that was adopted in various cultures between 12 and 7 Kya. Interesting, there are some variants upstream from lactase gene that has a C replaced by a T. This SNP increases how strongly and how often the transcription factor Oct1 binds to this site. You can look for these SNPs in the graves of the Beaker DNA. The skin color was lightened during the expansion of the Bell Beaker people so we can learn about adaptation.

As more knowledge comes and more recent events are uncovered, we’ll learn more.


If I2 is more ancient, why hasn’t it been studied more? Quite a bit of research is being done.

Did Norwegian R1b cross over C? Dr. Hammer can’t answer that.

Have any correlations been found between Y haplogroups and henge builders? Do we know who built Stongehenge? Dr. Hammer doesn’t know. Aliens. (Laughter!)

Why did interbreeding between humans and mitochondrial DNA not result in having it now? These parts of the genome might be co-adapted. A lot of genes lead to fertility so maybe there are compatibility issues. For mtDNA, maybe it’s a founder effect.

Did the Yamnaya have to cancel all the boys as well as the men? He can’t answer that from genetics. If it’s like modern people, they kill both but the boys tend to escape when foreign warriors come in and rape the women and kill the men. Some boys become refugees.

Dr. Hammer will share his slides on the website.

Please mention the importance of the DNA in the ear bone. Roberta shared that the petris bone was the densest bone and Dr. Hammer added that you want to be protected from the environment.

Bennett first met Doron Behar at Dr. Hammer’s lab. They stayed up all night talking abotu population genetics. Doron Behar, MD, PhD of Gene by Gene presented Launching a personalized and dynamic multi-media based experience for complete mtDNA sequences. They have been trying to find a way to spread knowledge and offer a better experience for newcomers. In the last decade, the result has been the certificate with the mutations listed. People with FMS will receive a machine-generated multimedia video that is dynamic.

Doron shared a video of what customers will get.

He then gave a review of basic genetics because there are many new people attending.

Because of the recent discovery that very rarely, fathers can make a mitochondrial contribution, they are making adjustments.

Dr. Behar talked about the distribution of the uniploids.



Does FTDNA update mtDNA designation of haplogroups? Yes, they wil take a very close look this year based on complete sequences.

Will project admins see the video? Bennett asked if the project members see the results? No. They haven’t made a decision on that. Bennett wanted to take a vote. Someone asked if it would be automatically generated. If someone’s not interested in the video, he would not generate it.

You will each have the ability to download. How many people who are group admins see it as a benefit worth having. It was split in the room. He said it’s like Amy’s survey results.

Bennett said, “This is a way to explain science to someone who refuses to read. We live in an age where everything needs to be 90 seconds or less because they don’t have the attention span… the data is there but they’re not looking at it.” He said, “We are trying to heighten people’s happiness with what they purchased.”

Will past mtDNA tests receive the video? If you’ve taken the FMS at any time in the last 19 years, you are eligible for the video and you’ll just have to request it.

How are you dealing with heteroplasmies? Heteroploidies are quite common in mtDNA, especially in some positions, but they are not using them to calculate age or a specific subbranch because they might mutate back.

If a tester has 10 matches with 0 genetic distance and 60 with 1 genetic distance, are those with 0 closer? Naturally, the more individuals that share exact sequence, they are more likely more recently related to each other because we would have expected that. We are expecting about one mutation in 3000 years. That could be calculated.

If 0 distance is the only relevant match, why does FTDNA confuse by showing other matches? Because it might have a good explanation of your origin if they are all coming from a certain geographic location.

Does FTDNA update the official mtDNA haplotree? They will work on this very hard this year.

The videos are machine generated so if they have access to different languages, they can present that. There are male and female voices and you can change your avatar. They spent a lot of time trying to be politically correct on the avatars. Elliott said too much time.

I am hg H and have over 20 perfect match. Why is this not an identical subgroup? Maybe we didn’t just label it yet. Maybe it is forming a new branch and that is what we’re going to try to work on—to make it automatically. FTDNA is by far the largest producer of mtdna sequences worldwide.

General Q&A from earlier today

Bennett reviewed the questions. Many of these are typed in first person as they were stated.

Going back to privacy and FBI issue, what are your thoughts on being removed form the future of privacy forum? Is this similar to “An organization that doesn’t reach out and find out what is going on isn’t perfect either. If they want to talk to us, I’m happy to talk to them. I think this all comes down to reality vs. a societal fantasy, I’m sorry to say.”

Please load Y-DNA for ancient DNA samples to be seen in the wonderful new block tree diagram. They can keep that suggestion under advisement.

The three samples that were transferred from FBI-Had they processed the orgiinal samples? What was the format? I think the original samples were DNA from crime scenes that we processed. The only other ones that could be transferred are the ones that CeCe Moore is working on with Parabon but the one they are using doesn’t have a lot of overlap. There is better overlap with the OmniExpress that they have been using in the past. The reason they are using Cytasnip 850 their business was 3 or 4 thousand dollars they’d give you a theoretical image of what the individual’s face looked like. Most of the work and all of the success is coming from CeCe doing genealogical work on the samples most of which was uploaded to GEDmatch. Y’all should read the article in Forensic Magazine and I said, “Look, I’m not competing with GEDmatch. The objective is to make us safer and I don’t care whether we’re mentioned or not mentioned. I’m doing what I think is the right thing for myself and my family. … I’m doing the best I can. GEDmatch is preventing 23andMe and Ancestry from getting subpoenaed because the success rate in our little databases is so good. If other companies would do the same thing, I believe the match supports that something like 98% of all dead bodies in our country could be assigned to a family … if you don’t care about that and that’s not more important than your theoretical right to not be a genetic witness, then I love you and I disagree with you. In societies that are civil, we can disagree without saying ugly things and without saying half-truths. There are half truths on the Facebook page that came out of this morning’s meeting. We need to think and then shoot, not shoot and then think.”

What name and email will appear for law enforcement accounts? I don’t know but um, we’re going to do a much better job on making sure the email address is not so obvious like janedoe@. They might not have emails and they might be turned off within five minutes of the person we’ve assigned to do all the intake and upload the samples. We might have them take it down, especially if there are hits and matches. We’re not trying to scare anyone. We’re trying to manage a crisis in the most adult … possible.

Where do the AG stand on the use of genetic genealogy databases? He asked Roberta if she wanted to answer it and she declined. Not one of the AGs asked him a question. They asked the lawyers questions. They didn’t ask Bennett any questions. Their job is to balance the good of the community as well as the rights of an individual and they will weigh those things. I bet we will see over the next 6-8 weeks that most of them are going to want to take advantage of keeping their public safe and not to be too cynical, but they all want to be reelected. … They need to make their society safer.”

John Shimp, have you done a DNA test? Yes, he has. Bennett said every investigator needs to do a DNA test so that they’re in there exactly with us.

Were subpoenaed test only in Y Search or in FTDNA proper? First in Y search, next two in FTDNA proper. The reason they shut down Ysearch and see what they did? We’ve only received 3 subpoenas. Look at ancestry and they only claim 3, all for financial fraud. Maybe they are.

How can you tell if it’s a LE sample? You can’t tell if it’s a LE sample. Remember this.. LE samples cannot join groups. We prevented that. Those kits are kind of crippled. They don’t have all the movability that a typical sample has. We did that obviously for you guys as benefit. You guys should never get an email or a call from LE. In fact, LE has said we get the genetic witness top guy and we go to Ancestry.com to look up their genealogy.

If a tester opts out of LE matching, does this effect their participation in a project? Absolutely not.

My concern is how LE matching will affect our general work? Once we get through this, those kits should not affect your project at all. They’re not trying to be invasive. They’re trying to get a lead from someone. I don’t want them lingering in our system and I was horrified when I found they were lurking in the system. How do you deal with them? No matter what decision we made, we’re wrong. How do you define greatest good for greatest number? If we’re wrong, we’ll be out of business. If we’re right, we’ll be here next year. We have watched and we cannot find evidence that sales have suffered. What I’m losing on one side, I’m getting back on the other. Along with two death threats and one I hope your building burns down, and if you’ve just threatened a death threat and you’re working with the FBI, then you should be taken out of the gene pool. They called those two death threat people and said that’s not the way to talk. They didn’t file anything formal and it went away after 3-4 days. People were laughing.

Of those who have opted out of law enforcement sharing, does that count only non-European testers? Yes, like 9% of our samples are from the EU. All those have opted out. A couple percent have opted back in. We haven’t sent emails, but we intend to. I think we’ll see some of the Europeans may be happy to use their DNA so their distant cousins who killed someone can at least have the opportunity to sit in a courtroom.

IF LE can upload generated kits? They can’t upload generated kits. In samples where there’s a huge differential because there’s poor overlap between our chip and what was sent to us, the sample is not going up because it can affect matching. With a 65% call rate, we’re not going to upload that. The likelihood of accuracy is not what meets our threshold. This is not a play game for law enforcement or anyone else. This is serious stuff. We expect to be good stewards of a shitty situation. I encourage Washington DC to legislate what they want us to do. In the absence of guidance from our government, we opted not to go against law enforcement. If they legislate it, we will follow it in a New York minute.

How does FTDNA validate the basis for an FBI request for access? What we do is we say provide us information on this case. They have to tell us whether it’s a murder or rape. I need a letter from the jurisdiction on their stationary or something that comes from [a government email] where someone tells us we want you to upload this.

We want nothing to do with the insurance or pharmaceutical industry because we don’t want them to use our DNA to determine rates. If and when the other companies in the space are confronted with the same, my guess is they will not take the stand of Apple Computer and say we will not litigate with you until the cows come home… we don’t want to live in a state of perpetual subpoena.

You mentioned murder or rape. What about unidentified bodies? Unfortunately, most of those are about murder or rape. It’s unfortunate that John couldn’t share. There’s a lot of stuff from the 1990s that’s going to be cleared up. If it takes three months, it’s going to take three months. Steve Kramer’s biggest fear is someone doing it wrong. They look at the third-party folks as potential do it wrong. They love the idea that we’re not going to upload anything without a firm registration program because they think it will protect them.

Elliott-when using degraded DNA from unidentified bodies, what techniques are available? Degraded DNA has a whole set of problem. The reasons most of the time we have failed call rates on FF is because the DNA quality was provided was bad. It’s the exact same situation with bodies. Basically, there is technically a technique but it’s very expensive. If the DNA is fragmented, you can skip a few steps and run a whole genome. … So, basically, this is what is potentially available to LE…  Technically, so can other customers. The second question is can you technically handle mixtures/contamination? In rape situations, unfortunately, rape kits are not usually just the sperm… There are techniques for solving this problem. It doesn’t work all the time. There is stuff they’re working on and stuff the FBI is working on. Bennett said what he thinks Elliott said is the contamination is between sperm and vaginal fluid. It’s not 50/50. That’s what makes it a little more challenging from a lab perspective. There are tens of thousands of these cases sitting in boxes.

Thank you for picking another color for the conference t-shirts. The blue is fantastic.

There is an ISOGG party in the Lonestar room from 7-11 tonight.
The ISOGG meeting is tomorrow at 8 am.

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