Sunday, February 12, 2017

What a Difference a Sale Can Make

It's Sunday—and another biweekly chance to check on research progress. Hint: after falling down on the job while away at SLIG and then returning home, bearing the "gift" of a traveling flu bug, I didn't get much done.

What did happen in the meantime was that the long-awaited DNA test results for my husband's two sisters came in. Finally.

Sales can be a wonderful thing. They pump up the traffic with all those additional shoppers, unleashing their pent-up demand. On the other hand, all that additional business overwhelms the system, and makes everyone have to wait.

I got to be one of those thousands waiting for the holiday sales rush to get processed.

Back in November, around Thanksgiving time, Blaine Bettinger had run a five-part article on his blog, discussing a technique he called Visual Phasing. I thought it looked fascinating and wanted to try my hand at it. There was only problem: he suggested using test results for three siblings; I don't have two additional full siblings.

I asked my husband if he thought his sisters wouldn't mind becoming genealogical guinea pigs. Happy news: they were game. They thus became my newest "science project."

By that time, the start of the Christmas shopping season was here in earnest. The $59 autosomal DNA test sale at FTDNA was taking everyone's breath away. I knew sales would be brisk, but the impact of that statement didn't hit me until I saw how long it took, just to receive the test kits—let alone return the sample and wait for it to be processed at their lab.

But I can be patient. Anything for a sale that good.

By the end of January with still no results in sight, I admit I was beginning to lose patience. I wore out my keyboard with continual log-ins to see if, just maybe, the test results had posted (I serve as admin for each of my sisters-in-law's tests).

Of course, that was when I got hit with the flu. Flat on my back from the moment I returned from SLIG, I wasn't worth much on the researching front—nor on the impatient customer front, either.

So guess what showed up while I was too sick to keep looking?

You are right.

Meanwhile, I'm sure you'll find it no surprise to learn I also didn't get much work done on my regular genealogical research duties. I made absolutely no progress on either my father's line or my father in law's line. But then, I seldom do; those two have me stymied.

On my mother's line, I somehow managed to eke out two additions to her tree, putting the count at 9,458. My mother in law's line was the only tree seeing action. There, I added 130 names, bringing the total there to 9,948. That, however, is no surprise, for in preparation to examine matches for my two willing sisters in law, I had to spruce up some records, which inevitably led to discoveries that other stuff needed fixing, too.

Testing close relatives can reveal some interesting trivia. For instance, I hadn't thought much about the variances I might observe in my husband's generation of his family. After all, we each gain roughly half of our genetic material from each parent: fifty/fifty, mom/dad. Right?

But which part of Dad's fifty comes from his mom and which comes from his dad isn't as neat a split package deal. One paternal grandparent's genetic signature can come down, loud and clear, for one grandchild, while another grandchild—a sibling of the first—can have a vastly different array. That, after all, is the purpose of attempting this visual phasing exercise.

So when I saw how many DNA matches one sister had, in comparison to my husband—her count was 1,239 to his 1,022—I realized right then I'd be seeing some clues that I hadn't been able to discern, just from using his results. And when his other sister's results came in, that effect was amplified even more: this sister's number of DNA matches was 1,338.

Of course, that simply means that there are more people out there who, coincidentally, tested and match the one sister than the other two siblings. But being able to find those "more people" may lead me to some family history clues I might not otherwise have found. That initial telltale sign alone is exciting.

If you've taken the time to read Blaine's five part series on visual phasing, you know I have a lot of work ahead of me. But I'm looking forward to trying my hand at it—whether I actually understand the instructions enough to correctly perform the analysis or not is another matter. But at least I'm trying. I think getting the hang of the technique is the first step. Then, I'd like to branch out and see what else might pop out from the data by adding in the details from, say, a cousin's DNA test as well.

The clues we can glean for family history from DNA testing always awe me. Of course, the price exacted is a steep learning curve. But the observations can be fascinating, in my opinion, and the benefits to our research can't be denied.

The only drawback might be that I get so taken with the process of phasing that I neglect pursuing my paper trails. That's where the concept of good old fashioned balance comes in. A little bit here, a little bit there, not neglecting the traditional tasks for those flabbergasting new-fangled techniques, is the best approach for now.


  1. Wow you will have lots of work sorting those all out! :)

    1. Yes, but I'm hoping some of these techniques I'm learning will make the sorting process go more easily--in the end.

      Just today, I discovered I had left a major branch of my mother in law's tree entirely out of my Ancestry account. That was a pile of work to correct. But it's missing details like this which, once rectified, will help me see connections more easily.

      At least, that's the hope...

  2. I hope you are feeling better, that Flu is a bugger this year :(

    1. I heard from a nurse today that some are thinking there are actually two different strains going around. Hopefully, the fact that I've gotten hit twice this year (thus that false sense of invincibility) means I've already built my immune response to both of them (the hard way). Bottom line: yes, so grateful to finally be feeling better!


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