Episode 287 - Reviewing Ancestry’s Thru-Lines, RootsTech London Update, Ask Us Anything: How Far Back Can Paternity Be Determined Through DNA?Jun 23, 2019
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. The guys begin Family Histoire News with word of the first court case involving a defendant identified by genetic genealogy. Hear why this case has long term implications. Then, it’s a librarian getting into the law enforcement game helping authorities identify the bodies of three murder victims. Find out what she did and how she did it. Next, imagine the shock of one Mississippi man when he saw a commercial showing a photo of his third great grandfather! Hear what that experience has changed in this man’s life. David next shares the story of a 101-year-old World War II vet who had a unique experience with his grandson… one that no one in the family will ever forget. David’s Blogger Spotlight shines on a familiar name this week… Blaine Bettinger. Looking to learn about DNA genealogical research? His site, TheGeneticGenealogist.com, contains a wealth of information.
In the second segment, Gretchen Jorgensen, a genetic genealogy specialist from Legacy Tree Genealogists visits with Fisher about Ancestry’s new Beta product, “Thru Lines.” Have you tried it yet?
Then, Dr. Scott Woodward joins Fisher for “Ask Us Anything.” Dr. Woodward answers the question, “With DNA, how far back can you expect to prove (or disprove) paternity.” Dr. Woodward’s answer might surprise you!
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 287
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 287
Fisher: And welcome to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. I am Fisher, your Radio Roots Sleuth on the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out and teach you how to find your ancestors and find inspiring guests and we’ve got so many of them today. First of all we’re starting out with Gretchen Jorgensen in about ten minutes. She is a genetic genealogist with our friends at Legacy Tree Genealogists and we’re going to talk about the new beta tool on Ancestry.com. It’s called ThruLines and it’s creating magic for a lot of researchers and you’re going to want to hear Gretchen’s take on it and some little secrets to make it work for you. Plus, later in the show, Tyler Staley is going to be here. He’s with RootsTech London. Of course the first one is coming up in October. A guest has already been announced, a guest speaker and performer. You’re going to want to hear about why you may want to be there, and what you could learn while you’re there. And then at the back end of the show, our “Ask Us Anything” segment with Dr. Scott Woodward, a DNA pioneer I’ve known for many, many years and he’s going to answer a listener question about how far back you can prove somebody’s paternity by using DNA, and the answer might surprise you. Hey, if you haven’t signed up for our “Weekly Genie Newsletter” yet, you could do so at ExtremeGenes.com or on our Facebook page. We’d love to have you be part of that community and of course we’d give you a blog every week and links to old and current podcasts and to stories that you’re going to find of interest as a genealogist. Right now let’s head off to Boston, Massachusetts and my good friend David Allen Lambert the Chief Genealogist of New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. Hello David.
David: Hey, how are things out your way my friend?
Fisher: Just grand and glorious and we’ve got a lot of stories to cover today in Family Histoire News.
David: I’ll tell you our friend CeCe Moore is at it again and she might be going to court, but not for something wrong she did, but something she helped solve.
David: That murder case that we talked about a while back where two young people back in the ‘80s Jay Cook and his girlfriend Tanya Van Cuylenborg that were found dead, the DNA has matched and now because of CeCe’s great work in this case she may be brought to trial.
Fisher: Yeah, she’s going to be a witness if the prosecutor brings her up, and a lot of people are expecting she will be because this is the first murder trial of somebody who’s been fingered by using genetic genealogy and DNA. And a lot of people are thinking this is one of those court cases that could go all the way to the Supreme Court, so there are national media outlets covering this trial and CeCe may testify, and it’s going to be very interesting to see what the rulings are as this thing moves forward.
David: I tell you her great work in genealogy and genetic genealogy just shows that she’s able to bring closure to people, not just finding their ancestors, but finding the killers of their family.
David: A Connecticut’s librarian is getting into the cold case research as well. Rebecca Heath made a discovery last October after being concerned about murders committed by Terrence Rasmussen who killed three children back in 1985 and 2000 up in New Hampshire. This researcher used her own sleuthing skills to help determine the identities of these victims from so long ago.
Fisher: Yeah, this is very cool. She reached out across the internet looking for people who were missing family members. And somebody described some people that might have fit these murder victims. She kind of put it on the back burner for a while when she didn’t get an immediate response, and then came back to it and made contact and then came to realize that the last person that this family member had been in touch with was a husband named Rasmussen. And so that put it together and she reached out to California police who were already working on some DNA matches and put the whole thing together, so really well done.
David: Well, I’ll tell you sometimes watching TV, you know, you find some great news, but how about when you get to see your third great grandfather appear on the television screen? And this is what happened to Anjuan Brown, a President of Greenwood, Mississippi. He already had this old photograph in his family Bible of this gentleman named Joshua Tarbutton who was his third great grandfather, but now he saw him on television.
Fisher: Yeah, this picture apparently was in a museum there in Mississippi, and Anjuan was already aware that his third great had been an enslaved person and now he was able to find out more information about him. And now he is a full-fledged genie as a result of this experience, and of course was thrilled to see another copy of his ancestor’s photograph in this museum in Mississippi because he saw it on TV. Isn’t that crazy?
David: It really is and so his ancestor born back in 1846 is born into slavery in South Carolina, but now he’s able to connect the story right with it, so it’s a wonderful addition to his own family history and obviously there’s another picture out there. Which just goes to show you, if you have an unidentified photograph, you never know when it might show up, so stay tuned on your local TV. Out in Colorado, Springs, 101-year-old Walter Kloc, a Veteran of World War II, in fact a bombardier pilot, was part of the graduation ceremony for his grandson Joseph, who just graduated as an officer from the US Air Force Academy. Talk about going full circle.
Fisher: Isn’t that great? And Walter was actually part of commissioning him as an officer. And he travelled 1,500 miles from his home which is in Amherst, New York to be part of this thing. And I guess the entire Academy gave him a huge standing O and they all said this is one of the best days ever in the history of the family.
David: It really is a wonderful story. Well, I’ll tell you I always like to shine the blogger spotlight onto someone that we haven’t heard about, but this one you probably have heard of, Blaine Bettinger. Blaine Bettinger has a wonderful blog that you may have never tried. It’s called thegeneticgenealogist.com where he talks about all sorts of things in the industry and gives some great tips in regards to genealogy and how DNA can help you.
Fisher: There is nobody better. He does a great job, absolutely.
David: Well, that’s all I have from Beantown, but just remember if you’re not a member of NEHGS, the New England Historic Genealogical Society welcomes you to be a member. Just go to our website AmericanAncestors.org and you can save $20 by using the checkout code “Extreme” for Extreme Genes.
Fisher: All right, thank you so much David. And coming up next I’m going to talk to Gretchen Jorgensen. She is a DNA Specialist with Legacy Tree Genealogists and we’re going to talk about that new Beta program you’ve been seeing on Ancestry. Maybe you haven’t played with it yet. It is amazing. It’s called ThruLines. What are the plusses? What might be the minuses? You’re going to hear coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 287
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Gretchen Jorgensen
Fisher: Hey, back at it talking DNA today on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, tickled to be meeting Gretchen Jorgensen. She’s a genetic genealogist for our friends at Legacy Tree Genealogists. And Gretchen, welcome to the show. Nice to have you!
Gretchen: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.
Fisher: You know, I think all of us are up to our eyeballs in DNA these days and helping friends and helping ourselves, and it’s just so much fun to wake up each day and work on some of these things. That’s why I wanted to talk to you today a little bit about ThruLines, which is Ancestry’s Beta program that everybody’s talking about and it’s so much fun. Are you using it a lot in your cases?
Gretchen: I am. I have to admit that when it was first announced I was a bit on the sceptical side. I just wasn’t sure what it was going to be able to do or how useful it might be. But once I got in and started played around with it, I found it to be really helpful and it’s just making some really impressive connections in my opinion. I’ve used it with my own family, and I’ve used it with client research, and finding it to be incredibly helpful in both kinds of situations.
Fisher: You know, I totally agree with you. And I’ve just used it this morning in fact, looking at a case that I had worked on in my own family. My wife’s mother’s line, we weren’t able to get back past her third great. And so we did a Y test on her uncle to get, you know the male to male to male line and try to figure out if we can connect into a name line, and we got one match at that time. And then a few months later we got a second match come along. And both of these two matches came from the same couple in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. And this was pretty cool. They had done some research and found out that yes, they had had a son named Jessie that fits the rough timelines where this Jesse Burk was supposed to have been born. And then it’s a matter of wait a minute, are there autosomal proofs that this was the proper connection? And as I look on ThruLines now, I can see more and more matches coming in. We’ve got over a dozen autosomal matches from people who descend at the correct level to indicate the correct relationship to help us to know that we’ve got the right person. That’s really powerful, isn’t it?
Gretchen: It is. And yeah, I mean, that’s a great confirmation point. And I’m betting that some of those matches that you’re finding through ThruLines might not have been that straight forward for you to identify any other way.
Fisher: That’s right.
Gretchen: The way that the tool works is pretty interesting. It’s kind of a follow-on to Ancestry’s DNA circles which looked at the trees for people that shared DNA with each other and had a tree connection to each other. But ThruLines also pulls in family trees from the entire Ancestry network of trees, including private searchable trees not just the public trees, so there’s so much more data that’s being looked at that it really finds things that are in some cases, pretty obscure.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
Gretchen: I know in my own family research, some of the connections that it made. I had found and put in a tree that was offline so it wasn’t just reading my tree. But it made connections that took me a very long time to figure out and boom, they’re just there.
Fisher: They’re just there. Yeah, I had this happen with another person who came in as the descendant of my third great grandparents. And I would have never found this person. She only had grandparents’ names on her tree, and she didn’t have anything other than a name which was fairly common there. I would have never stumbled upon that. But because of the wife’s name and everything, the algorithms picked it up and then tied it into my tree of descendants and took it back to the third great. So, I’m looking at her situation and thinking, “Wow, if she looks at this, she’s going to figure out all the way back to her third great grandparents and know who they are. And then take their lines, which I developed decades ago, to go back hundreds of years from her grandparents, which is an amazingly powerful tool.
Gretchen: Yes. Yes it is. That’s pretty incredible actually.
Fisher: There is a downside to this though of course. And that is the idea that if somebody uses an adoptive family line or something, you can start to believe that that’s the bloodline.
Gretchen: Correct. The conclusions that ThruLines makes are only as good as the data in the family trees that it’s looking at. And if there are errors in those trees…
Fisher: Oh there are never any of those.
Gretchen: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even had said that. [Laughs]
Gretchen: Then you might get some results that don’t quite make sense. And as I’m sure you’ve observed as well, if someone publishes a family tree, they tend to get copied and copied and copied, and if that information is incorrect, that can spread like wildfire actually. So, I mean it’s important to verify anything that you find in ThruLines, or a family tree, or any other source. That’s just an important part of any genealogy research. But I view it as a head start.
Gretchen: It can give you a lot of clues that would be difficult or time consuming to find otherwise. And then it’s much easier to confirm or refute that kind of connection than it is to find it in the first place.
Fisher: Yeah. That’s really well said Gretchen. I’m talking Gretchen Jorgensen. She is a genetic genealogist with our friends at Legacy Tree Genealogists. And we’re talking about this whole new thing with ThruLines and the pluses and minuses. I remember at RootsTech this was announced and a lot of people were like, “Ugh, but it’s bringing up wrong information.” And you’re absolutely right. I mean, we get so many sources all the time that do turn out periodically to be incorrect. But that’s really incumbent upon us to figure that out before we accept it as gospel. When you look at some of the information that’s in, I’m finding it’s getting easier now, don’t you Gretchen, to correct information that’s been copied and copied and copied, that takes on that life of its own. In the past its like, oh forget it, there’s no way it’s ever going to get fixed. But more and more people are figuring it out now because of things like this.
Gretchen: I think so, yeah. And I think sometimes you’ll get lucky and can contact the relatives and tell them that their tree is wrong and they’ll change it. I actually have had some success with that.
Gretchen: But I know that that’s perhaps not typical but I guess publishing the truth is a good way to combat that. If your tree is correct, hopefully somebody will copy you instead of the wrong tree.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
Gretchen: Family trees can be erroneous but so can death certificates, even birth certificates, all kinds of records.
Gretchen: That verification step has to be part of the research process.
Fisher: Yeah. I was looking at a thing the other day where the birth certificate gave the name of the parents, which I presumed to be accurate, and every DNA clue that I’m getting says that it is accurate. But when he joined the war, World War II, his enlistment record gave the names of his parents and he gave his father’s third wife’s first name in the record. And I thought see, that could throw anybody off if you don’t know better.
Gretchen: Yes, definitely. I have a case in my family of two couples with the same first names and the same last names living in the same county for generations, and a lot of overlap in the names of their children. And so those couples have been conflated in family trees throughout the years, which you know is not surprising. I ended up with a ThruLines connection to a descendant of the other couple so the ThruLines information was not quite correct because it had both Patrick Corrigans as being the same person. But the interesting thing to note about this is that ThruLines only makes connection when you share DNA with someone else. And I do share DNA with this person. And so that, even though it’s incorrect, it’s still interesting to me because somehow I am related to this person and that introduces the possibility that these two Patrick Corrigans may have been related to each other.
Fisher: Oh wow! Yeah that’s something you probably haven’t thought about before, right?
Gretchen: I mean, kind of vaguely considered but now this makes it more of a realistic possibility, so it’s something that I’d like to check out and see if I can find any more there.
Fisher: Yeah. The cousin level I guess has to be the question though, right? I mean how far back, are you thinking maybe first cousins?
Gretchen: That would be kind of my first guess because they were about the same age, and I think both natives of Ireland, and ended up in the same part of Illinois, so the thought that they are first cousins is not too much of a stretch.
Fisher: Um hmm. So Gretchen, you recently did a great blog with Legacy Tree Genealogists talking about ThruLines and you had some interesting observations there. Talk about that a little bit.
Gretchen: Okay. Well, it was fun to write and it was fun to research it to put it all together. I looked at the family of John Berger, my second great grandfather because he’s one of my brick walls and I don’t have a lot of information about him. But several of his descendants have tested with Ancestry DNA and they were coming up in ThruLines. And so I looked at the data for that, and while I didn’t directly find out anything about John, that exercise really gave me some great ideas of how I can move forward in that research. I found that when I looked at the list display in ThruLines, that there was one of his children whose descendants have not tested at all. And other lines where they’re pretty under represented or they’re all fairly distant and I know that older testers are available. So, it kind of helped me put a plan in place of who I might contact to ask them to test and especially getting some older testers in there, which as I found out weren’t really in the mix as much as I had thought.
Fisher: Interesting stuff, yeah. There are all kinds of new things we learn from this. And I’m sure Ancestry, the people there themselves are figuring out new things about it as well. She’s Gretchen Jorgensen, a Genetic Genealogist with Legacy Tree Genealogists. Thanks so much for the insight, Gretchen. It’s been a lot of fun talking to you. ThruLines by the way is available through your DNA tab at Ancestry.com and you’ll fund it just to the right of where you see your regular results. Just click on that. Make sure you have your Beta button on and you are in. Thanks for joining us Gretchen and we’ll talk to you again.
Gretchen: All right. Thanks so much.
Fisher: And coming up next, I’m going to talk to Tyler Stahle. He is one of the key players of course with RootsTech and RootsTech London the first one ever, is coming up in just a little bit and he’s got some great breaking news for you and information you’re going to need to know to take advantage of it, coming up in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 287
Host Scott Fisher with guest Tyler Stahle
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. As we work out way into the summer everybody is starting to anticipate the fall and RootsTech London. And I thought it’s about time we checked back in with the Marketing Manager for Family Search International, my friend Tyler Stahle. Tyler, you’re making those announcements again.
Tyler: [Laughs] Hey Scott, great to talk to you. Yes we are. We have a lot of exciting things coming for RootsTech London. As you might have seen just last week we announced Donny Osmond as our first keynote speaker.
Fisher: Yes! “The Donster.” Is he going to perform too?
Tyler: [Laughs] He has to, right? I mean, it’s not the same if he only speaks.
Tyler: So, yes to answer your question we definitely want him to perform a few numbers. He’s speaking about his own family and his own family history but he’s also got some great music to make fin.
Fisher: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, he did speak at RootsTech in Salt Lake City, a few years ago and did a great job with it and I can imagine he’s got a lot to share with his European fans and friends.
Tyler: He totally does. We were on a call with him just before we announced him on our website and he was telling us about the majority of his ancestors coming from the British Isles and from the United Kingdom. So, he’s always felt that special affinity to the UK. He’s performed there many times throughout his career and it’s just a second home to him. So, he’s excited to be going back and we’re excited to have him. He’s passionate about family history which a lot of people would be surprised to learn about. He’s got a whole page on his website Donny.com, about his own family history and the research he’s done. So, we’re really excited to have him.
Fisher: Well, I’ve known Donny for many, many years and I know he’s all about his family.
Tyler: He is.
Fisher: So, that’s going to be great fun. Who else have you got coming that you can talk about?
Tyler: Yeah, the other great news we have, as you know at RootsTech we kind of have that model where there’s a keynote speaker every day. So, Donny is the only one that I’ve got to announce so far but we have two others that will speak on the Thursday and the Friday of RootsTech London. So, those announcements will be coming here in the next few weeks. But, we also just recently announced the entire RootsTech London schedule.
Fisher: Oooh! That’s good.
Tyler: Yeah! This has been a work in progress. [Laughs] As you can imagine we received over 400 class submissions for RootsTech London. So, our team has just been witling those down trying to find the best content that we can offer to our attendees that are at RootsTech. So, if you’re looking for a one-stop shop to come and have classes on anything, from DNA research which we know is huge especially as you know. From methodology to how to preserve your own family stories, any of those kinds of topics you can find at RootsTech London.
Fisher: Well, and it’s looking like it’s very Eurocentric, shall we say? You’re going to get a lot of classes there in London that you do not get at the original RootsTech in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Tyler: Yeah, exactly. We recognize the audience for both of the events are going to be a little bit different, right? And here in the United States we get more of an American attendee who are interested in different topics and in Europe we’re anticipating a little bit different. So, we’re doing our best to customize this event to that audience and to their needs. So, I’m scrolling through this schedule just looking at the wide range of classes. A tour of the European Archives by Miles Meyer, that looks like a great one.
Tyler: I’m seeing a bunch of classes on Irish research, on German methodology, here’s one on how to read German handwriting. You know, we actually even have two classes on tracing your ancestors from India.
Tyler: So, we have a wide range of classes where we recognize London is truly a melting pot for people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds. So, it’s a conference we’re hoping will speak to a wide range of attendees.
Fisher: Well, you know if you stand at the white cliffs of Dover you can see the coast of France.
Fisher: It’s just across the way. It’s almost like Long Island from Connecticut, it’s just not that far.
Fisher: And you think about the history of British Empire and all the countries that kind of flow into that. So, you know all these countries are so closely connected and all the invasions throughout time, there’s got to be so much interesting material to be had there. And most of the instructors, they are European, are they not?
Tyler: Correct. Yeah, we worked really hard to recruit and be introduced to the top genealogy experts there in the UK and throughout Europe. So, we’ve got a wide range of speakers coming to represent those different topics, some from France, a couple from Belgium, obviously a lot from the United Kingdom, a couple from Australia as well.
Fisher: Oh, wow.
Tyler: It’s fun to see the diverse backgrounds that people are coming from here.
Fisher: Oh, absolutely. The connection between Great Britain and Australia, there’s so many ties there.
Fisher: As with Canada, very similar.
Fisher: Really there were all kind of criminal colonies including our own to some extent in the early years.
Fisher: So, I would imagine there are a lot of records there that people have never even thought about. That’s the fun part, isn’t it? Where you go to something like this and you go, “Oh, those records exist? Oh, I can get them here? Oh, I can see them right now, this week?” You know? [Laughs]
Tyler: Yeah. I was talking with my wife about this you know, while we’re over there I’m like, hey, after RootsTech ends it’s just a short flight to Switzerland which is where the Staley side of my family comes from, why don’t we go over and see our ancestral homeland.
Tyler: So, there’s something about being in the country where your ancestors are from or near the country where your ancestors are from.
Tyler: There’s just something that you experience there that you wouldn’t experience even just in the conference.
Fisher: Yeah, I have done that just for my name line, gone to Northern Yorkshire and spent a considerable time not only in the little village but in the regional archives there. And I remember it’s funny, you always find just what you’re looking for, in the last five minutes before you have to fly out, you know?
Fisher: And at least I was able to get images of those documents and make contacts with people there who could do some further research on my behalf.
Fisher: It was an experience that was kind of surreal especially when I went back the second time and took my own children and gave them that experience and they still remember it.
Fisher: You know, this is the thing, European tracing and education is one thing but then to take that and immediately put it into action because this conference is only what, three days right?
Tyler: Three days, yep exactly.
Fisher: So, if you’re going to spend the time and the money to get over there, boy, put an extra week in there and go have some fun and see these special places.
Tyler: I totally agree. You know, one of the cool things we’re actually doing, we partnered with the Society of Genealogists. You know, the National Family History Center there in the UK and their library, they’re actually offering a few special lectures and a few special tours a couple of days prior to RootsTech and then a few days after. So, if you’re interested in staying around and you have ancestry from the UK, go to the SOG, hear some of their lectures, take a tour of the library, it’s all free.
Tyler: You can even go to SOG.org.uk, and see the whole list of events that they’re planning around RootsTech London as well.
Fisher: Boy and you know it’s so fun right now because I think overseas right now people are catching on fire about this, especially Ireland.
Fisher: Where in the hotels they’re actually having genealogists on staff to work with people to find out where their people were from right there in Ireland.
Fisher: So, it’s just getting bigger and bigger and we see that spreading. And even DNA in Europe.
Fisher: Well, it’s a little tougher we’re finding that more and more people are finding ways to get their DNA matches. Okay. So, if people want to find out how to get there. It is October 24th through 26th in jolly old London. Where do they go Tyler?
Tyler: They go to RootsTech.org/London. You’ll see everything there. You’ll see our most recent announcement about Donny Osmond. You’ll see a link to see the full schedule. And then there’s a bright green register button in the right hand corner. When you’re ready go ahead and click that, get registered and we will look forward to see as many of your listeners there as we can.
Fisher: Well, it’s important that you do this fairly soon too, right? Because those classes do fill up and there are limits.
Tyler: Yeah, exactly. The cool thing about RootsTech and the model that we have is that you don’t have to pay for any access to these classes. Everything is included in the price of the registration. So, whether you want to purchase a one day pass or a three day pass, you get access to everything that happens on that day. So, we don’t require pre-registration for a class but like you say the popular ones do fill up. So, we would recommend getting there a couple of minutes early and make sure you have a seat especially in those popular classes that you can’t miss.
Fisher: Yeah, really important because that might be the main purpose of you going over there in the first place. So, get on those. Once again, it is RootsTech.org/London. How hard can that be, right?
Tyler: [Laughs] We try to make it easy.
Fisher: Yeah and you do. All right, great stuff. We look forward to the future announcements here Tyler because there’s so much happening right now, RootsTech London coming up October 24th through 26. You want to be a part of that, get signed up now at RootsTech.org/London. Talk to you again soon my friend.
Tyler: Thanks Scott. Good to hear from you.
Fisher: Hey, it’s our Ask Us Anything segment, back to DNA with Dr. Scott Woodward coming up next in three minutes on Extreme Genes.
Segment 4 Episode 287
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Scott Woodward
Fisher: Hey, it is time once again for Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. And my guest today is my good friend, Dr. Scott Woodward. He's a professor at Utah Valley University. He is one of the DNA pioneers who once drew my blood from my arm just to prove that this whole DNA thing might work. When was that, the '90s or was that the late '80s, Scott?
Scott: [Laughs] That would have been, well, it would be in the '90s.
Fisher: In the '90s, somewhere in there. I remember you got my wife, you got me, you got a bunch of our friends and it’s like, "What is this going to do?" And look what it has done. And so, here's our first question, Scott, and this actually might take the entire two segment part here. The writer, whose name is also Scott says, "I have a paternity question that dates back to the early 1800s. How far back is it possible to prove paternity?"
Scott: That's a great question, because it’s one that actually we had at the very beginning of trying to put genetic genealogy together. How far back can we go to reconstruct family histories based on DNA? And we've been looking at paternities for a long time. And the first usual tool is to use the Y chromosome.
Scott: You know, do you have a direct Y chromosome link? The problem with that is that they can only answer questions that are male to male, to male to male, to male. And if you have that linage, you can go back a lot of generations. I mean, we can go back a couple of hundred maybe more years with real accuracy.
Fisher: But you don't know how far back the link comes in, the common ancestor through that, do you?
Scott: Right. And that's a problem. And it doesn't rule out brothers or uncles like in the Thomas Jefferson case and things like that. And so, the real question we had is, can we use autosomal DNA to reconstruct not just the paternity, but also on the mother's side? So, can we look at the parents, the number of generations it goes and determine whether or not these are in fact the correct parents for an individual.
Fisher: And I should say here by the way for people who aren't real familiar with DNA, autosomal test is the standard test that you get now from Ancestry.com and Family Tree DNA and 23andMe and My Heritage.
Scott: Correct, yeah. That's the one we're talking about. And we just published a paper actually on a case like this that goes back just about 180 years to the parents, asking the question, “Who is her correct father in this family?” And we've been able using that autosomal DNA to identify the correct father in this family.
Fisher: And this is not a male to male, to male to male case obviously or you'd be using more Y, but you did it through autosomal, which makes me think, okay, for people who aren't familiar once again, the further back you go, the less and less DNA you share from a common ancestor with people . So you had to have a lot of different people who you believed were descended from them in order to reconstruct what you though the parentage might be, right?
Scott: That's correct. We actually looked at 56 individuals from the two families.
Fisher: Did you reach out to them to do the test or were they people who had already tested?
Scott: A little bit of both. We actually reached out to a couple of hundred, but it turned out that out of those couple of hundred, these 56 were the most close related to the question that we had, and so we'd stayed with them. Some of those had already been tested on their own. Others, we encouraged them to do a DNA test and then we were able to collect that information and do the analysis.
Fisher: Wow, this is good stuff! All right, we're going to take a break. We're going to be back in three minutes with Dr. Scott Woodward, talking about determining paternity using DNA, going back 180 years, when we return on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 287
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Dr. Scott Woodward
Fisher: Hey, we're back at it, talking DNA on Ask Us Anything on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth with my special guest Dr. Scott Woodward from Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah. And Scott's a DNA pioneer. We were talking about the question here that's been asked, "How far back can you prove paternity of an individual?" And they had somebody back in the early 1800s, and you recently had this kind of case, too, Scott. You were talking about how you came across like 50 some odd different people to do the match with. And that's really the only way you can be pretty certain, right?
Scott: When we get back, the deeper we get in the past, the more individuals we usually need in the present to piece all of this together, but out of the 56 individuals that we tested, it turned out that it only took really six of those individuals to really get the majority of the answer. The bulk of the answer we were able to get through just six individuals, so that's not bad.
Fisher: So they basically had a higher percentage of DNA than normal for that kind of distance. What are we talking about, six or seven generations?
Scott: Yeah, we're talking seven generations, six generation separation between these individuals who are living today, back to their common ancestor and back to today. And so, these average six or seven generations. And we had others that were eight generations apart that also add some information to the story. But these six individuals had the bulk of the information, so we used them and were able to solve this question of paternity.
Fisher: Were you trying to disprove paternity or prove paternity?
Scott: Both. And that's where this study is really interesting, because not only could we rule one person out, but we could also identify an individual who was the most likely father of this family.
Scott: So, often we're just trying to rule somebody out, but in this case, we were able to rule that person out and find the real father with a really high probability.
Fisher: So, in answer to the question, you can really go back quite a long ways. How far back would you be comfortable saying you could do this? I mean, you're at 180 there, 180 years. What would you say you could do accurately?
Scott: Yeah, it’s the number of generations that are the important part, so we're talking about six generation separations between these individuals that are living today.
Fisher: To the closest descendants, right?
Scott: Right. And I think there are some cases where we might be able to go back seven and eight generation separation and still get fairly high numbers. And so, depending on how many years per generation, you know, we may be back almost two hundred years in some cases.
Scott: Haven't seen one of those yet. Haven't worked on one of those yet, but I think it’s probably within our reach.
Fisher: Okay, because you know, my wife's side we recently had a find where Y DNA identified a couple of matches that came from the same couple in Pennsylvania, but it was the autosomal test that showed at least a dozen different matches that came through different children in that line, and the father in that household was born in like 1755!
Scott: Yeah, that's the power with the greatly increased number of pieces of DNA that we can look at with the autosomal as it will allow us to reach back to 150 years. It’s pretty exciting.
Fisher: Its great stuff. He's Scott Woodward, he's a DNA pioneer. And thanks so much, Scott, and thanks so much to our listeners for the question. If you have a question for Ask Us Anything on any topic, just email [email protected]. Well, we have reached our limit for this week! Thank you so much for joining us and hope you got a lot out of this. Boy there was so much to cover with DNA, talking about ThruLines with Gretchen Jorgensen from Legacy Tree Genealogists earlier and of course right now with Dr. Scott Woodward. If you missed any of the show, you can catch it, you can share it with your friends, you can review it, just listen to the podcast at iTunes, iHeart Radio and ExtremeGenes.com. And by the way, if you haven't signed up for our Patron Club yet, there's all kinds of bonus material waiting for you there and it’s a great way for you to support the show. Hey, thanks again for listening. We'll talk to you again next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!