Big Y 700 Update

With the dust settled a little bit from my big Y 700 test and the Big Y 700 results from an Elmer cousin, I thought it would be good to revisit my place in the tree and compare that to my spot in the family tree.

FTDNA Big Y Block Tree a Good Place to Start

Here is the current Big Y block tree for the Elmer family as of July 2020:

My branch is in the middle highlighted in black. Because no one further down my branch has tested I’m shown coming directly off R-A2284 which is associated with Ed Elmer 2 born in 1654. You can see our cousin to the right listed as R-A2276 who is descended from Ed Elmer 2’s brother Samuel. To the left in R-A5920 are my closer cousins who are also descended from Hezekiah Elmer.

Right now the striking thing is that this is what FTDNA knows about my family given the current crop of FTDNA testers. It’s accurate to a point, but not the whole picture.

The actual family tree more closely mimics this Y DNA testing tree we put together in the Ed Elmer group:

Ed Elmer testing tree with branches for Edward 2 and Samuel

As family trees go, I’m more closely related to the men who are under R-A5920 because I’m descended from Hezekiah Elmer (1686) through his son Dan (1730). The R-A5920 men are descended from Hezekiah’s son Samuel (1732).

As you can see on the testing tree we have an STR test mixed in with our SNP tests, a DYS449 test. STRs change with time, so they can only suggest a relationship, not prove one, but we did notice a pattern of men related to three sons of Hezekiah (1686) Dan, Samuel and Jacob and that is that all of us (5 testers in total) have DYS449 = 29 while all our cousins have DYS449 = 30. So it seems possible that that particular STR mutation occurred in Hezekiah (1686). We can only wait for other testers to break the pattern.

The block tree only shows SNPs and has nothing to do with STRs let alone family trees, so it is at once completely accurate, but in my case a bit misleading.

The tester I’m grouped with in the block tree is R-A2284 like me and so we expect he’s related to Ed Elmer 2 since that SNP isn’t carried by men descended from other sons of Ed Elmer. Unfortunately, we’re blocked in his family tree. We have several lost sheep in New York state who appear to be related to Ed 2 but we have no family trees or documents to connect them to Ed 2 (usually stuck in the early 1800s) and none of them match each other’s private SNPs.

The block tree is grouping us based on our common SNP but it would be more accurate to put the two of us into our own separate blocks because we only have private SNPs beyond that point. Just based on SNPs We should each be an individual straight line with our private SNPs above our names.

The block tree can make a bunch of straight lines look like a cluster of more closely related men.

Going back to our testing tree in the Ed Elmer group, you can see that we’ve already SNP tested down the line for Ed Elmer (1610) son Samuel (1646) listed as the R-A2276 branch to the right of me. He has actually tested to R-A6928 along with another man who tested at YSEQ. Both are related to Samuel’s son Jonathon and his son David and then split there. Because we don’t have any more sons of Jonathon to test down, we can only assign that R-A6928 to David (1725).

Ed Elmer testing tree with branches for Edward 2 and Samuel

FTDNA is not aware of that YSEQ or Full Genomes Corp testing and so they can only assign our cousin on the right all the way back up the tree at Ed Elmer (1610) and R-A2276.

Looking at the block tree one more time it is accurate, but misleading because it makes me look more closely related to one Elmer than to my two (actually more closely related) cousins on the left. The block tree can’t know that I am really more closely related to them. If we ignore my family tree and focus on the SNPs that FTDNA knows about then technically, to be less misleading, what is labeled as “my branch” should be a twig for me and a twig for my counterpart with our private SNPs listed separately.

Even if I had a closer cousin tested, like my second cousin, the block tree would still be misleading because they would put us in our own group under R-A2284 which would be accurate as far as SNPs go but again might confuse a layperson.

The block tree also isn’t aware of non-FTDNA testing so we have no facility to represent the cluster of men that should appear on the right.

The FTDNA block tree is accurate from its perspective but not definitive for this family because of a slightly misleading layout and a lack of data from other sources.

family tree dna block tree for A2276

Why am I beating up on the block tree?

The block tree is an awesome way to view Y DNA as a point in time and to watch the major structures change as new test results come in. There is only so much you can do with the screen space you’ve been allotted. So the block tree is being efficient by clumping results together. From a standpoint of organizing the major segments of the Y DNA tree it makes total sense, but (there is always a but) someone could take this representation of data the wrong way and that can hinder research or cause hard feelings.

My Private SNPs

When I originally looked at my Big Y 700 results I was warned that they had likely not been reviewed by a human. I had a list of 7 private SNPs at that point and registered some dismay that they were already named (which would make me think they’re not exactly private).

This was that list:

  • 10926150 – FGC78529 – C to T
  • 11048867 – BY84358 – C to T
  • 15413588 – FT207533 – A to G
  • 21824986 – FT208074 – A to G
  • 3232865 – FT206108 – G to C
  • 4031585 – FT206255 – T to G
  • 6535656 – FGC78523 – G to T

Since that time I believe my human review was completed and I’ve also had my results analyzed by Full Genomes Corp (which means they have also named my private SNPs). The list has been whittled down to these four:

  • 15413588 A to G FT207533+ FGC93151+
  • 21824986 A to G FT208074+ FGC93152+
  • 3232865 G to C FT206108+ FGC93149+
  • 4031585 T to G FT206255+ FGC93150+

You might notice that FGC78529 has made an appearance in the block tree image above. It was discovered in one of our lost sheep testers from NY. It also appeared in my list and then in the big Y 700 results of one of the R-A5920 men. So it’s been placed up with R-A2284. It’s possible that it is older than that, but I would need to individually test men for it at YSEQ to find out (or wait for more testers at FTDNA).

FGC78523 was moved up as a shared SNP with the Knowlton family. Of note, the Knowltons now show 5 private SNPs along with this new SNP while previous notes show them with 4 private SNPs, so I suspect they’ve had an upgrade to big Y 700 or FTDNA has been able to mine more results from their Y 500 test. They remain our closest Y family with a rough estimate of 1100 AD for a common ancestor (if they’re big Y 700 then it might bump to 1200 AD).

ftdna block tree for R-ZP129 the branch containing the Elmers and Knowltons

BY84358 has been removed from my list, although also acknowledged by FGC as a positive SNP for me. At FGC it did not occur in any other Z18 person including other Elmers. I’m not sure what to make of that.

With full genomes Y-Elite testing for one man under Ed Elmer 2 and Big Y 700 for two of us, I think this list of SNPs is the go to list for testing men on this branch of the Elmer family: Ed1 -> Ed2 ->Hezekiah -> Daniel:

  • 15413588 A to G FT207533+ FGC93151+
  • 21824986 A to G FT208074+ FGC93152+
  • 3232865 G to C FT206108+ FGC93149+
  • 4031585 T to G FT206255+ FGC93150+

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