DNA for Genealogy Is Popular on TV and in Denver

DNA for Genealogy Is Popular on TV and in Denver

In the last several years genealogy-themed TV shows have become hugely popular, and more recently, the addition of DNA testing (genetic genealogy) has also found its way into these shows.

Two new DNA/genealogy reality TV shows debut this week.  I plan to watch and hope you do, too.

Relative Race

Relative Race premieres tonight, February 28 at 6:00pm MT on BYU TV.  It is an original competition family history-based reality show that has been described as Amazing Race meets Who Do You Think You Are.

Relative Race maps

Relative Race features four married couples as they travel across the US in search of long lost relatives, armed with only paper maps, a rental car, a $25 per diem and a flip phone. Using the science and technology provided by AncestryDNA, the couples embark on a journey that starts in San Francisco, ends in New York City and leads them to unknown relatives along the way. Cameras follow all four teams as they drive across the country -more than 4500 miles- in just ten days, stopping each day to complete a challenge and find (and stay with) their newly discovered relatives in a different city. At the end of each day, the team that finishes last receives a strike; after three strikes, teams are eliminated and the remaining teams travel to NYC for the grand finale where there is a $25k grand prize for the winning couple.

BYUtv is available on Dish (Ch. 9403), DirecTV (Ch. 374), and carried by nearly 600 cable television providers nationwide.  Episodes can also be streamed live or watched on demand on BYUtv.org, or via a variety of smartphone apps that can be downloaded.  View the trailer on the Relative Race official site.

Long Lost Family

A new 8-episode season of Long Lost Family will premiere on TLC on March 6 at 9:00pm MT.  The show has aired on British TV for a couple of seasons, and the trailer and TV schedule for the current season can be viewed on the TLC website.


The show premieres with an episode titled, “I’ve Waited for This Call for 45 Years,” in which a mother is reunited with a child that she was forced to give up for adoption.  The show utilizes DNA testing to help establish close family relationships when reuniting biological family members.

Finding Your Roots

Season 3 of Finding Your Roots continues with two more episodes to round out the current season on March 1 and 8.  Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. continues to explore the backgrounds of celebrities by utilizing DNA testing and consulting by genetic genealogist CeCe Moore.


The remaining schedule can be found on the PBS website, and full episodes of this season can also be watched online.  The Behind the Scenes blog provides more information on how DNA testing was used to solve some of these cases.


DNA Seminar and Q&A Sessions at Denver Public Library

If you are in the Denver area and lucky to be one of the 225+ individuals who have a seat in CeCe Moore’s sold out all-day seminar at Denver Public Library on March 5, you will no doubt hear about some of the ways she has used DNA to solve these cases.

I will be providing 4 DNA Q&A sessions in the weeks following CeCe’s seminar to give attendees an opportunity to have their DNA questions answered in a small-group format limited to 40 attendees each.  Registration for the sessions scheduled on March 10 and 26 will open on this website on March 6.  Check the calendar for a session that meets your schedule and submit your questions in advance via the registration form.

DNA with DigiDeena Facebook Cover



All I Want for Christmas Is…Spit?

All I Want for Christmas Is…Spit?

Yep, you heard right.  I want the spit of as many of my cousins as possible so we can test and compare our ancestral DNA.

I have been on a quest this year to gather the DNA of the oldest family members in my family and my husband’s family before it is too late.  With the recent drop in price of Family Tree DNA’s autosomal “Family Finder” test to $99, it is becoming more affordable to confirm family connections through the use of DNA.

I am a completely addicted genealogist.  But I fear that I am going to become an even more addicted genetic genealogist if I continue on this path!

So far I have had my own autosomal DNA tested with all three of the major testing companies:  23andMe, Ancestry DNA, and Family Tree DNA.  I’ve also had my maternal grandmother, father, and aunt (father’s sister) tested.  I even paid to transfer the raw DNA files from 23andMe to Family Tree DNA for my grandmother and father so that we could “fish in more ponds,” so to speak, and double our matches with people who may have only tested with one company or the other.

Because I’m female, I cannot take the Y DNA test to investigate my patrilineal ancestors, so I had my dad tested with Family Tree DNA instead.  I could have had my brother tested, but it’s always preferable to test the oldest living generation in a particular family line so that matches to common ancestors are not clouded by more recent mutations.  For this reason, I’ve also opted to have my husband’s father tested first, before I eventually test my husband.

DNA SwabsOn my wish list for testing are male descendants of my Swedish Anderson line (maternal grandfather’s surname).  I have a few candidates who could provide me not only the Y DNA sample, but also the autosomal DNA in the same test swab.  Similarly on my husband’s side, we’d like to get his uncle (mother’s brother) tested to capture the rare McCrossen Irish line, which was his mother’s maiden name.  My maternal grandmother’s brother had several male descendants who we could also test for my Italian Campagna line, which was my grandmother’s maiden name.  As you can see, the list goes on and on.

I have other cousins on my radar who I don’t even know yet.  I’m actively doing descendancy research from the levels of my 2X great- or 3X great-grandparents to find living males today in branches of the tree where I don’t already have a representative sample.  Why all the emphasis on males, you might ask?  Since females inherit two X sex chromosomes and males inherit both an X and Y sex chromosome, I prefer to find males to test so I have the option of testing both their Y and autosomal DNA.  In the absence of a viable male to test, I can still test a female’s autosomal DNA, but will not be able to trace the surname as easily (as surname patterns typically follow the male or Y DNA).

I am still happy to receive autosomal DNA samples from cousins, as it will help me to triangulate my matches with individuals who are predicted cousins, but do not have a recent matching surname that obviously jumps out from both our trees.  By using two or more autosomal DNA tests from cousins, tools are available to narrow down from which branch of the tree the cousin matches, making the search for the common ancestor much easier.

It can be a bit overwhelming to process one’s autosomal DNA results, since it’s not uncommon to have several hundred or even a thousand matches in the predicted 3rd to 8th cousin ranges.  By having two or preferably three cousins to compare results from a particular branch, I can utilize tools such as the chromosome browser provided by 23andMe or Family Tree DNA to see which segments of our DNA overlap.  Then, rather than trying to search through all branches of my entire tree, I can focus on the branch where I know the same segments of DNA have been inherited by myself and my cousins.

If I get my Christmas wish, I’ll be busy in 2014 pouring over spreadsheets of information to connect the dots (or should I say strands) in the DNA.  I’m excited about the prospect of meeting new cousins who may have unique family information, photos or artifacts.  Thanks to DNA, I just might break through some of my dead ends in 2014.