Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Salk Guinea Pig On Tier1's Relationship Tree Projection

The GEDmatch Relationship Tree projection
Last week, I wrote about the Matching Segment Search offered by GEDmatch on its new subscription program, Tier1.

Kitty Cooper has blogged about the triangulation feature. Blaine Bettinger has blogged about a tool they call Lazerus, that recreates the DNA of ancestors based on the tests of living descendants and has put together a Facebook group to work with it.
That leaves the Relationship Tree projection.

This tool was on GEDmatch until a few years ago, but was removed because it was not really ready for prime time. There were, however, people who had used it with success, so it was revived as part of Tier1 due to popular demand.

Nonetheless, it is a work in progress, not a polished finished product.

The Relationship Tree projection is basically a calculator, using self-reported data rather than data that is drawn directly from the database. The results, therefore, are displayed very quickly. It also means that the user must be careful that the numbers are entered correctly.

I cannot get Blogger to show the entry form properly, so you'll have to take my word for the fact that it requires the following information:
  1. The numbers of the kits being compared and the sexes of the people
  2. The total cM and longest segment in the match
  3. The total cM and longest segment in the X chromosomes
  4. Which of the two kits is an older person and by how much
You can also add the names of the people being compared and there is a box for comments at the bottom of the page. These are optional.

I ran my own kit against four other people - my father's first cousin Herb, my no-closer-than-fourth cousin Dalia, my indeterminate but fairly close cousin Jane and my probably-about-fifth cousin Jacob. I have perfect Y-37 matches with Dalia and Jacob, but these are not considered by the calculator.

The calculator determined that Herb is indeed my first cousin once removed.

The calculater shows Dalia and Jacob to be my second cousins once removed and Jane to be my third cousin. These results are way too close and are no doubt a result of our Jewish endogamy, which the calculator does not consider.

The three results other than Herb also showed a very long vertical, multiple-path chart that I could not even see well, let alone understand. It is way too long to show here.

I ran my comments past the developers, John and Curtis, and John added two things I did not know:
To work properly, the 2 kits being used should have non-zero X-DNA comparison results.  Otherwise, the number of possible paths becomes very large.
Entries in the "comments" box are not used by the software. They were intended to be feedback to us during the development process, but quite frankly no development has been done for several years.
The fact that this tool was returned to the site because users found it useful means that there are users who found it useful. You can hardly argue with that, ready for prime time or not..

If you have significant amounts of endogamy in your family, this is probably not for you.

The calculator is "a work in progress," but that does not mean that is being worked on at this time. The developers themselves refer to it as "experimental."

John and Curtis are very responsive within what their time and resource constraints permit. Not everything is going to be useful for everyone. Knowing that something is not is also useful knowledge. I can hardly complain when three out of four tools are useful.

Guinea pigs for Dr. Salk
On the occasion of last week's one hundredth birthday of the great Dr. Jonas Salk (thanks to Google Doodle for pointing that out), please indulge me a bit of personal recollection.

From the National Registry of Historic Places
I attended first grade at Dilworth School in Pittsburgh in the 1953-54 school year. (I am quite certain about that because we moved and changed schools at the end of that year.) Dilworth was - and still is - at 6200 Stanton Avenue, on the corner of Collins Avenue, backing onto Saint Marie Street.

We lived in easy walking distance, at 6401 Stanton Avenue.

One day, someone came into our classroom and told us that we were to be given a new shot that was supposed to prevent some illness that most of us had never heard of. Polio, they said. As they passed out the parental permission slips, most of the children began crying - no six year old ever liked shots. Most cried, but not all.
Miss Merritt and her first grade class

I didn't cry. I was not concerned in the least. I hated shots, but whenever I had an injection of penicillin, Mother would say something like "It's for your own good. We don't enjoy this either. YOU KNOW WE WOULD NEVER ALLOW YOU TO HAVE A SHOT IF YOU WEREN'T SICK." And there it was. I wasn't sick, so there would be no shot for me.

And that evening at home, they signed the paper. It was years before I truly believed them again.

That was only the first part of the trauma. The day of the shots itself seem to have been designed to create the greatest amount of hysteria. First of all, they led us to the gym. That huge room with the fancy wood floor that no first grade shoe was ever allowed to touch. The only other time we had been there, we were in socks.

And so not to contaminate the floor further, they lined us up single file along one wall. The wall was on our left and we were as close to it as they could get us. And as we looked towards the head of the long line of children ahead of us, we saw a large table with medical personnel in white gowns and these large tubes of blood hanging from racks.

No one had said anything about blood!

We watched in horror as each child came up to the table, received an injection from what looked like a really fierce needle, then extended an arm and had their arms tied with rubber straps to make another cup for Dracula. Some of the children yelled and thrashed and had to be restrained throughout the process.

And we all watched.

And moved another couple of feet closer to the table.


No doubt some screamed when it was their turn, just because they thought it was expected.

I have no recollection of subsequent years. I was in a different school and do not even remember where the injections were administered.

Years later, when Pitt had some kind of ceremony marking fifty years since those first school injections, I first learned that we had been guinea pigs. I supposed it was common knowledge by then, but not for me. They knew the vaccine itself was safe, but there were some questions about effective and safe dosage. Hence the blood tests. Somehow I doubt that was on the permission slip that my parents signed.


  1. Wow. SCARY. I would have been furious had that happened to my child!

  2. My mother was a school nurse so I was right up there. It was in the newspaper too.No blood in NJ and no repeats.

    1. Pittsburgh was ground zero. It was different there.