Saturday, June 18, 2016

Resurrecting My Grandfather


Simpson Reed, my mother’s father, died years before I was born. If he had been alive when I was born, he would have been in his 90s. He was born just over 15 years after slavery in Tate County, Mississippi. My mother, aunt, and uncles adored him. Mom once stated, “If a man is even half the man my father was, he'll still be a great man.” Grandpa Simpson was 43 years old when he married his first wife, Addie Person. They had three children, with only their oldest surviving. Addie died in childbirth. Several years later, he married my much younger grandmother, Minnie Lee Davis. He was 55, and she was 27. Five additional children were born, including my mother. Unfortunately, the only picture the family had of him got lost before I was born. The best I can do is display this picture of three of his 10 siblings, his oldest brother, Jimmy Reed (1872-1959), his sister, John Ella Reed Bobo (1882-1974), and his youngest brother, Pleasant “Pleas” Reed (1888-1966).

Jimmy Reed (1872-1959), John Ella Reed Bobo (1882-1974), & Pleasant “Pleas” Reed (1888-1966)

Although a picture of him cannot be found, I now have something that’s even better – his DNA! I have been able to recreate 73.7% of my grandfather’s genome, sort of like resurrecting him from the grave. I personally think that this “resurrection” is a great Father’s Day tribute to him. If someone had told me five years ago that I would be able to do this, I would have given them a blank stare. How was this “resurrection” possible?

Well, I certainly didn’t have to drive down to Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery near Como, Mississippi with a shovel to dig up his grave. I wouldn’t have done that anyway. I think. However, a cool tool in GEDmatch, called Lazarus, made this possible. It is GEDmatch’s Tier 1 tool that allows users to create pseudo-DNA kits. Tier 1 utility tools are only available to people who donate at least $10. (GEDmatch’s creators produced a great and free DNA utility tool, so I happily donated.) These pseudo-DNA kits can be surrogates for a deceased ancestor. Lazarus was added to GEDmatch in 2014, and I finally decided to explore it. How does it work?

Lazarus creates a pseudo-DNA kit by comparing and identifying DNA shared between the people in Group 1 and the people in Group 2. Up to 10 people can be in Group 1, and they must be the target Lazarus ancestor’s children or grandchildren only. It’s not recommended to place a grandchild, who is a child of one of the children being used, in Group 1. Why? Any DNA that he/she could contribute is already in the parent’s DNA. Up to 100 people can be in Group 2. They must be relatives of the target Lazarus ancestor who are not direct descendants. This includes siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. Never place children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren in Group 2. This “resurrection” was done in just three steps.

Step 1: I kept the default threshold settings at 700 SNPs and 6 cM.

Step 2: I entered the kit numbers for my mother, aunt, and uncle in Group 1.

Since my grandfather is the target Lazarus ancestor, my Group 1 contained three of his children, my mother, her brother, and her sister. A parent gives half of his DNA to each child randomly. However, each child doesn’t inherit all of the same DNA from that parent. Different children will have some of the same DNA from a parent, as well as some different DNA from that parent that his/her other sibling(s) didn’t inherit. My aunt inherited DNA from my grandfather that my mother didn’t inherit. My mother inherited DNA from her father that my uncle didn’t inherit. You get the picture? Therefore, because three of his children were in Group 1, more of my grandfather’s DNA was identified. 

Step 3: I entered the kit numbers of 15 family members in Group 2.

These family members included my grandfather’s niece (one of Uncle Pleas Reed’s daughters), his oldest brother Jimmy Reed’s great-grandson, and 13 of his paternal and maternal cousins. These cousins range from first cousins twice removed to third cousins once removed. That’s one of the advantages of testing multiple family members and having their raw data in GEDmatch. If a spouse of the target Lazarus ancestor is living and is in GEDmatch, you can also place them in the optional SPOUSE field. The Lazarus program will extract out that spouse’s DNA from Group 1.

After you click “GENERATE,” Lazarus will perform its magic! When a kit is processed, the results page will contain three charts. The first chart (Contributions) will show every matching segment between the people in Group 1 and the people in Group 2. The second chart (Resulting Segments) will be an accumulation of all of the segments that were used to create the new pseudo-DNA kit. The end of this chart will show the total number of cMs that were generated. See below. The final chart will show the original kits with the utilized segments.

If at least 1,500 cM (centiMorgans) of DNA are not extracted from the groups, Lazarus will not produce a pseudo-DNA kit. Adding additional children or grandchildren in Group 1 and/or more relatives of the target Lazarus ancestor in Group 2 can increase the number of generated cMs. To my pleasure, 2,726 cM of my grandfather’s genome were extracted. A person’s full genome contains 3,700 cM. Therefore, my 18 family members yielded 73.7% of my grandfather’s DNA. Cool, huh?

Now, I have a new DNA kit in GEDmatch, as if I had collected my grandfather’s saliva, sent it to an autosomal DNA company such as 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA, and uploaded his raw data file to GEDmatch. Well, almost. But 73.7% of his DNA is a significant amount to work with, right? If you match kit no. LL802351, then you are related via my maternal Granddaddy! 


  1. Wow!!! This is awesome and amazing!

  2. Fantastic! Thank you for explaining it so well.

  3. Wow, I am related and match the kit LL802351 @ chromosome 10 sharing 10.6 cM. To my knowledge, that is my Littlejohn line in SC. Some potential connecting surnames: Tate, Davis, Evans, Ruffin, Smith. My kit is A783150.

  4. This is amazing! Thanks for the info. Your grandfather and I have four shared matches.

  5. I just created a genome for my maternal grandmother who passed away 28 years ago. Used 2 of her children in group 1, and her sister in group 2. Got 2292.50cm- 62%. Very cool. Thanks for the post on Facebook!!

  6. This is AMAZING! I looked at the kit matches to see if I matched. I didn't appear in the listing but my third cousin Najeeullah matches at 3.3 generations. I'm going to do's AWESOME. Thanks for sharing.

    1. My grandfather is related to Najeeullah on his Thompson line from Abbeville, South Carolina.

  7. This is amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Wow! That was a really great explanation of this tool, thank you.

  9. Thank you so much. I did the Gedmatch phasing tool, but I have tested several of my siblings as well as 2 paternal cousins, so I will be able to get a fuller genome for my dad who passed, and if I can get some of my mom's cousins to transfer their tests from ancestry, I may be able to work back to long gone grandparents.

  10. As Usual On Point! Thanks for sharing.

  11. So much better than digging up a grave, I think. Interesting and easy to follow. ~ Cathy

  12. This is one of your best posts ever. It opens the door to the next phase of DNA research for many of us. I created a profile for my father who died in 2001. It works well to find his matches. I need more relatives to get tested to go back farther.

  13. You are blessed, indeed. I can only smile as your continue to plow your way through the DNA maze and watch you pull up some more new relatives every week.

  14. I'm new to GEDmatch and didn't understand what Lazarus was at all. You explained it so simply, so now I do, and thank you!!


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