Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Genetic Family Tree Grows New Buds

Genetics are now tightly intertwined with genealogy. The powerful role DNA plays in revealing family history has been nothing short of revolutionary, says the guy who unraveled a Not-the-Parent-Expected (NPE) event thanks to DNA.

DNA testing for genealogy has gone mainstream, catching the imagination of consumers who aren't ardent genealogists (for better or worse).

Databases of DNA-tested consumers are experiencing exponential growth (check out the latest numbers at Leah Larkin's The DNA Geek blog). More testers means increased potential to connect with genetic cousins who may expand our family trees, perhaps even knock down a few brick walls.

Genetic Haplogroup Family Tree
A year ago, I wrote about the creation of a new kind of family tree - one based on genetics and not names.

The Haplogroup Family Tree is a pedigree of paternal and maternal haplogroups.

What's a haplogroup? The International Society of Genetic Genealogy defines it as, "a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations."

In the past year, my genetic family tree has seen two primary changes: an evolution of my paternal Y-DNA haplogroup and a newly-tested family line.

Family Sleuther's genetic family tree

My primary attention has been on my paternal line, using Family Tree DNA's Big-Y test to refine my patrilineal haplogroup to a more recent timeline (but more on this in a future post). In the last year, my paternal haplogroup has narrowed from R-A664 to R-BY30547 - a branch (or, more appropriately, a twig) of mankind's Y-DNA tree that is unique to my relatively recent paternal ancestors.

The second update is that my mother's brother recently agreed to Y-DNA test, which will provide me that line's Y-DNA haplogroup. When those results arrive, I'll need just two great-grandmothers' maternal haplogroups: great-grandmothers Ruoti and Wagnon.

Fishing For Cousins
Roberta Estes, author of the wonderful DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy blog, just featured her own genetic pedigree in a recent post. She's detailed her paternal and maternal haplogroups back to her great-grandparents. Like me, she needs to identify just two great-grandmothers' maternal haplogroups.

To fill those gaps, Estes offers to provide free DNA tests to qualified descendants of those ancestors. I think that's a fantastic idea. 

So ping me if you're a descendant with a direct maternal connection to either of the women below:
  • Maria Filomena (La Rocca) Ruoti, 1875-1929, Potenza, Italy and Denver, Colorado: this is actually my second great-grandmother, but her daughter, my great-grandmother, had no female descendants to carry on the matrilineal haplogroup, so I have to take it back a generation.
  • Mary Pauline (Wagnon) Upton, 1906-1992, Muskogee, Oklahoma.
A lot can happen in a year. We'll see how fulsome the tree looks in twelve months. 


  1. You're on a much higher level than I am on this stuff. I am still sorting out autosomal matches---to no avail!

    1. I hear you, Amy! I find the evolving science of genetic genealogy fascinating, and I think we stand to learn so much more in the coming years. Not just about our own ancestry, but the migration of mankind.

  2. mine is R-A664... how do I start narrowing it?

    1. To refine your haplogroup, you can explore higher level testing with companies like Family Tree DNA. For Y-DNA, they offer the Big Y test, which helps identify your own unique haplogroup.