Counting Chromosomes
A blog of random musings on genealogy, genetics, science, and history
Jonny Perl
Jonny Perl, DNA Painter
at RootsTech 2018 in Salt Lake City

DNA Painter, the autosomal DNA visualization tool for genealogy created and developed by Jonny Perl, has not only been gaining thousands of users in its seven-month existence, but on March 2 in Salt Lake City it was announced as winner of the 2018 RootsTech DNA Innovation Contest.

Jonny, a web and applications developer in England, has been involved in genealogy for over ten years, but took his first DNA test in December 2016. He admits that he was skeptical of DNA testing initially, and accordingly had delayed testing himself for years. After he saw his results, he was less than completely satisfied with the way they were displayed, and thought that there had to be a better way.

He became involved with a UK-based Facebook group discussing DNA and genealogy, and credits that with helping move his understanding of DNA rapidly past the basic and intermediate stages. He began looking at ways to group and display chromosome mapping and segment sharing more intuitively and visually and, in July 2017, invited just a few people to have a look at what was working on as, essentially, "alpha" testers. Jonny readily admits that if we'd seen the application at that stage, we would not have been impressed.

David Threlkeld
David Threlkeld

We've lost a Threlkeld cousin. He passed away February 5, 2018 in his sleep, and evidently peacefully, at the age of 56.

David Threlkeld was my second cousin. We discovered each other only last August. A mutual relative told him of me, and he telephoned on August 29. This was just as Hurricane Harvey began to move north leaving in its wake catastrophic flooding that would come to be ranked as, by far, the most rainfall of any tropical cyclone on record in the United States. And the scammers were already at work: predatory and typically unlicensed contractors, roofers, and "disaster recovery specialists" knocking on doors and calling to try and squeeze money out of those suffering most from the hurricane's aftermath.

This is how I knew within the first several seconds that Dave was a kind and patient man. If he gave his last name when I answered, I didn't hear it. So he got my gruff, unsolicited-sales-call, full-on challenge voice...which on the vocal scale registers as an over-loud Darth Vader.

That didn't faze Dave's friendliness a bit. He explained who his father was and who had given him my number and, as soon as my dim lightbulb sparked, we reset and then talked for almost 45 minutes. He had already tested with AncestryDNA, and was enthusiastic about a Y-chromosome test with Family Tree DNA and joining the Threlkeld DNA Project.

Threlkeld House, Shelbyville
The Threlkeld/Weakley House, Shelbyville, Kentucky

If you happened to visit Google Images today you noticed that, quietly and with no fanfare, Google has removed the "View Image" button from the results of image searches. I know many genealogists—and you may be one of them—who regularly use Google Images to search for new instances of photos depicting geography, structures, and particularly people of interest to you. It's convenient, lets you preview the images, and of course employs the robust Google search engine.

Beginning a few hours ago, though, you no longer have the easy option to click on a button and view an image at full resolution in a new web browser window. That's good for businesses, publishers, and artists that make money from their products; not so good for genealogists who simply want a century-old photo of a great-grandmother to put in a family tree.

There is a rather singular reason for the change which we'll touch on in just a moment, but the result is an implication that people can no longer download an image, or an intention

DNA Central

It's been four weeks to the day since Blaine Bettinger first posted on his blog, The Genetic Genealogist, about the upcoming April launch of DNA Central. Now, April isn't that far away.

I've followed Blaine's Blaine's contributions to the genetic genealogy community for years, and have already told him that I will be the first in line when the doors open. There are a number of "Citizen Scientists" who regularly offer their expertise to the millions who have now taken genealogy-driven DNA tests, and Blaine's one of the best. From his January 25 blog post:

This new subscription-based site will have blog posts about the latest and greatest, how-to content (including a "What Next?" series), short videos (such as the "3-Minute DNA" series), webinars, and forums. We'll also have monthly giveaways and much more. It's everything you need to finally understand and apply the results of your DNA testing!

Visit that blog post to find a link to subscribe to receive DNA Central announcements, or you can click here to go directly to the subscription form There is no cost or obligation to subscribe to the mailing list.

Q: Why the title, "Counting Chromosomes?" Will the blog only be about DNA?

Not only about DNA...though much of it no doubt will be because DNA testing is the most important new tool for genealogy. As to the name, that's mostly a marketing thing.

I wanted something catchier than "My Blog," so I went looking at as many genealogy blogs I could locate for ideas. And there are a bunch of them. Some titles are creative and memorable, some...not so much. I also wanted a title I could put a license plate on, if you will: register an internet domain name with that title.

Having done some branding work for companies in the past, the next thing I did was compile an extensive list of synonyms and words related to my core subjects. Then I started brainstorming, rearranging the words, mentally adding prepositions, that sort of stuff. You can get some spectacularly bad results this way. Nobody wants to read "Getting into Genes," "Genes Treed," or "Mr. Rogers Nucleotide." It's okay to laugh at my expense; I do it all the time.

With tongue-in-cheek gratitude to the Scotsman Robert Burns for his 1785 poem, from which John Steinbeck extrapolated the title of his 1937 Of Mice and Men.

Eclipse Diagram Before the doors could ever open, plans went awry. This endeavor began taking on a life of its own...causing tangents that we thought might need to be readied before we go live. There have been a couple of technical glitches that can be worked around, but we have to convince ourselves that getting the website open—even if several desired functions are not ready—is more important than continued development in a vacuum where no one can participate at all.