The Lazarus Tool: How to Bring DNA Back from the Dead

Video Transcription

We all have relatives who’ve passed away before taking a DNA test, so is there any way that we can recreate their DNA?

Howdy, I’m Andy Lee with Family Houston Fanatics and this is a segment of DNA. Be sure to subscribe to our channel and click on that bell if you wanna be notified about upcoming episodes. Commercial DNA testing has been around for almost 20 years and really for genealogical purposes for about 10 years. During that time, we’ve had lots of relatives who may have been interested in genealogy or may wanted to support our genealogy hobby and they’ve passed away without having a DNA test. What I wanna look at today is the Lazarus tool on GEDmatch and show you how that tool works and how much of an ancestor’s DNA you might be able to recreate. Here we are on the Lazarus page on GEDmatch and it is going to be asking us for some information about matches that this person has so that it can help recreate it and we’ll go through what those matches are and how important each of them are.

Now first if you want to read some more about Lazarus and how it works, you can click on this link and it’s gonna go to the GEDmatch Wiki and it will give you some information about how Lazarus works, but I’m gonna show you today how to create a kit and what information is best for creating the best kit. Now this is for a deceased ancestor and in this case what I’m going to do is I’m actually going to compare it to my dad because I have my dad’s DNA, so I will be able to use these Lazarus kits to compare to my dad to see how close those kits end up being. I know that my dad is male, so I can click that there, and this really comes into play with the X chromosome because it needs to know whether there’s going to be one X chromosome or whether there’s gonna be two x chromosome.

The next is gonna be the CM threshold for segments. Now I usually just stick with the default of 6 centimorgans, but you can increase that to a higher or decrease it to a lower depending on your family situation. For instance, if you have a lot of end domy in your family, you’re probably gonna want to increase that to 12 or even 15 centimorgans, whereas if you maybe wanna take a look at some speculative segments, you might wanna lower that, but if you stick with about 6 centimorgans or 7 centimorgans, you’re gonna be just fine. The next step is the processing. Now you can put a trial run which is just going to let you know what kind of information is there and whether or not it’s going to be able to find everything. Or you can do the no batch processing and that will allow you to do one to one matches, but it won’t allow you to do one to many matches or you can do the full processing.

Now if you are just playing around, I would suggest that you stick with the trial runs or the no batch processing until you can create a good kit that has enough to do the one to many and do the full processing on that. So then it is time to start entering in our kit numbers. Now this first group is group zero, and as it says, group zero is optional. What this group is is this is the spouse of the person. So in this case I’m trying to recreate the kit of my father, so I would put my mother’s kit number in here. Now if you don’t have that spouse’s kit, what you want to do is you want to put in kit numbers of relatives of that spouse that are not related to the person you’re targeting. So for instance, I would put in, let’s say my maternal aunt or if I have some maternal cousins, I could put them in there as well.

But since I have my mother’s DNA, I’m just going to put that one in and if you have that, that’s all you need to put in. The next is group one. Now group one, you need to have at least one entry and what group one is, is it is the descendants of this target person. In my case with my father, it would be his children or his grandchildren or maybe even his great-grandchildren. Now, one thing to remember here is you don’t need to put a grandchild if you have that grandchild’s parent DNA kit already. So for instance, my dad had four children, me and my three brothers, and I have all of their DNA, so I just need to put in those four people. Now, if I didn’t have one of my brother’s DNA kits, but I had a couple of his children, I could put in those kit numbers and that would add some more information to the overall mix.

Ideally, what you want is you want to have all lines of dissent represented here, but if you don’t only have let’s say one child, that’s okay. That’s something to start with. Next we’re gonna go down to the last group and this last group is those people who are related to your target person but are not descendants of your target person. So this includes parents, it includes siblings, it includes aunts and uncles, cousins, anybody that is related but is not a descendant. These really come into two groups of people. One is the group of people that you know what that relationship is, and that’s usually parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, and that’s the known group. Then the other is maybe the unknown group, and these I like to call your distant matches. You can actually use a match list of people that are related to this person and put them in there even though you don’t know exactly how they’re related.

These can have any number of kits in here and I’ve made kits with more than a hundred people in this group too. And in fact, if you don’t have certain relationships, that’s what you want to do is you want to put as many people in this group too as possible. So let’s generate this Lazarus kit based off of the information that I have. Now, it’s going to go through and it’s going to take a second and we’ll go through this to see what information is being collected. First off, it’s going through on this first table and it is finding all of the matching segments between those people in group one. That’s gonna be in this first column of kit one and those people in group two, that’s going to be those in the second column kit two. So it’s comparing group one and group two.

It’s finding all of the matching segments in that big group of people, and so the more people that you put into both group one and group two, the longer this table’s going to be. The next thing it has is it has this group zero segments, and what it is is it is comparing that group zero also to that group two, and it is finding any segments that are in common that it can remove. Here we see that hey, there was about 34 cent organs of segments that were removed from this overall kit. The third table here is the resulting Lazarus segments. So these are these segments of DNA that have now been added into this kit, and you can see in this case some of these are really, really big segments. Some of them may not be so big depending on what the segments that we’re matching between groups one and groups two are overall this kit created 3558.70 cent of organs, and that is really close to the best that you’re going to get.

S0 if you see something that is in that range of 3000 to 3,500, that is the best Lazarus kit you’re probably going to be able to create. Now this final table is which kits match with which segment, so it’s just the same table as above that is really reordered into the chromosome and the starting location. And then down at the bottom we have some information. Now, one thing I will say when you’re creating a Lazarus kit, this is the only time you’re ever gonna be able to say, see this information. So you might want to save all of this onto a spreadsheet in case you want to look at any of this information. There’s no way to go back to this information and find it again. So down at the bottom it tells us a little bit about the snips that it has created. In this case, it’s created 480,000 single allele snips.

What that means is that is a snip with just one letter. So instead of an aa, it just has has created 164,756 biallelic snips. So that would be an AA in this case, which is normally what most kits that you’re just doing a DNA test have is they have bilic snips. In the case of males with the X chromosome, it’s just going to be a single allele snip because we only have one x chromosome total is 645,000 snips, and that is a huge amount for a Lazarus kit. And like I said, this is about the best that I can get a Lazarus kit to be. It gives me my kit number, which is going to show up back on the homepage and it tells me that, hey, I can do one-to-one comparisons pretty much immediately down at the bottom. There is the opportunity here to download this file of people, and this is not all this information on this page, but this is the data file that you use to create that.

Let me show you why you might want to do that. If we go back to the Lazarus homepage, you can see that one option is to actually upload a previous file, and this would be that file there that you had just downloaded. So I can choose a file, I can upload it, and I have a starting place for my Lazarus kit. And that’s really what I’ve done with my father is I actually created about 50 different kits using lots of different combinations as far as relatives to try to figure out what the best one is and what effect different changes in the amount of matches and the amount of or how distantly related those relatives are, how that affects that overall Lazarus kit. Now, I told you that this kit that I created was really about the best Lazarus kit that I can create because I have lots of those very close relatives.

I have both of my dad’s parents, I have all four of his children, I have his spouse and I have numerous other distant relatives that all can feed into that kit. Now ideally what we want is we want this Lazarus kit to look just exactly like what a regular DNA kit would, and so to show you what a regular DNA kit would look like, let me compare my dad’s kit to my dad’s kit, and what we see is we see it is all green on top and all blue on the bottom, and what that means is that both of the snips on that chromosome match each other in every single location. Now, there are a couple of places where we’re seeing just some little bits of red there as far as processing errors, but overall this is 3586 centimorgans that is totally half matched.

If I go back and I look at just the fully matched segments, it is all the fully matched segments as well. So that is what a perfect Lazarus kit would look like. But no Lazarus kit is perfect and in fact, no Lazarus kit is anymore really than half perfect. Let me show you. I’m now gonna compare my Lazarus kit that I just created, which again is the best Lazarus kit that I can create to my dad’s kit. And in looking at the thing, it is much different here. We can see instead of green all the way across the top, it’s actually almost all yellow on every single one of these chromosomes, meaning it’s just a half match as well. You can see that there’s a few little places where there’s a no match and that’s just because there wasn’t enough data available to fill in those little spots.

Total, it looks like there’s 3544 centimorgans of half match. If we look at the fully matched, there’s none. It’s all black. We can see there’s no part of the chromosomes that are considered fully matched when comparing the Lazarus of my dad to my dad’s actual DNA kit. Now, why is that? To answer that question, let’s go back to the end result that we had right here. Remember I said there was something like 480,000 single allele snips, and what that means is is that in 480,000 places, there’s only one letter instead of two letters, whereas there’s only about 164,000 where there’s two letters. Now it’s on almost all of the kits. It ended up averaging out to about 25% were bio allelic and the other three quarters were single allelic. And so that makes creating a full match pretty much impossible because you would need to have a long enough string of bilic snips together that all match to make it a fully matched area.

And when one out of every four of your snips are bilic and the others are not, in order to get a string of 200 to 500 snips that are biopic is really just mathematically impossible. So one thing to remember and really one of the most important things to remember is that your Lazarus kit can only recreate about half of what the DNA looks like of that person. That is a product of how the Lazarus kit works. So let’s go over a little bit about how Lazarus works. Remember I’d said that Lazarus, what it does is it takes these segments that match between group one and group two, and then it subtracts out those segments of group zero and group two. So this results in looking at your children or your grandchildren who have received DNA from both the target person as well as the spouse of the target person and trying to divide out which is from the target person.

Now, whenever somebody has received from the target and a T from the spouse of the target, and if the spouse of the target is tt, then you know that thatt had to have come from the spouse, which means the A has to have come from the target person. On the other hand, whenever you have them receiving an A from the target person and a from the spouse that they had to have gotten the A from both of ’em, but you don’t know what that second snip is. So for the spouse, that might be an A T, that might be an AA for the target person that also might be an A T or it might be an AA if the child has an at and the spouse also has an AT that adds one more layer of complexity into it because you don’t know from the target person whether they receive that A or whether they receive that T.

And it’s in processing all of those little bits of segments that makes it where you really can only find about half of the DNA. Now unfortunately, we get one chromosome from our mother and one chromosome from our father or one set from our mother and one set from our father. This recreated Lazarus kit is not one of those sets. So it’s not, let’s say the paternal chromosomes or it’s not the maternal chromosomes. It is a combination of both of them. If you have the parents of this target person, or at least you have one of the parents of this target person, you could in effect create a Lazarus kit that is just the paternal side or just the maternal side by only using matches that are related through the paternal side or related through the maternal side of the target person. Now, that would be a great tool, but there’s limits then as far as how much DNA you can get as well.

You’re not gonna be able to get to 3500 centimorgans for each one of those kits. The limit is right around, I think 2000 centimorgans or so for each one of those kits. So it’s still good, it’s certainly better than nothing, but I just don’t want people to be thinking that, Hey, if I create this Lazarus kit, this is a true representation of what this deceased deceased person’s DNA looked like. It’s not. It is only still a fraction of what their DNA looked like. Now, why do we want to have as much DNA in the Lazarus kit as possible? Well, first off, that’s going to improve the possible matches and it’s going to make it more likely that those are real matches. But the second reason is is that there’s this threshold of 1500 centimorgans where if a Lazarus kit does not have at least 1500 centimorgans in it, it’s not going to be able to do the one to many matching.

You can still do one to one matching, but you won’t do one to many matching. So whenever you’re making a Lazarus kit, the goal should always be to get as many cent organs as possible. Now, how do we do that? So when you’re selecting people to include in a Lazarus kit, what should be your priority? What should you be looking for? Well, obviously the group one is going to be the descendants and children are preferred over grandchildren just because children are gonna have more DNA. Not only that, you want to have as many children as possible if you have just one child and you can still do that. But if you have two or three or four or more children that you can put in there or equivalent children. So for instance, if you have the grandchildren of a child whose DNA you don’t have, you can put those grandchildren’s DNA into that Lazarus kit and with children.

I did a video a couple weeks ago about how much parental DNA children have and what you see is that by the time you get to four children, it’s about 93% of DNA. So more than four children is not going to have a big impact, but going from one child to two child, that can actually double the amount of DNA that your Lazarus kit has. Then we get to group two. As with most things DNA, the closer relationships the better. So if you have parents and siblings, those are the first people you want to put into a target kit, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have both parents, if you just have one that is going to make mounds of different. I created for my dad, like I said, about 50 different kits where I tried different combinations, all of these things, and that’s how I came to the conclusion that these parents, single parents, or even single sibling vastly increases the amount of DNA that you’re going to be able to create in a Lazarus kit.

So to reiterate, parents and siblings are the most important relationships to have in the group two. What about if you don’t have any parents or siblings that you can include in group two? Well, in this case, what you can do is you can find as many of these more distant relatives as possible, and these, like I said, can be aunts and uncles, they can be cousins, they can be second and third cousins. Pretty much your entire match list that you know is related to that person and not to that person’s spouse is who you want to be able to have. Now, this can be a little bit tricky, but if you have the target person’s spouse, let’s say for instance, I’m recreating my father. So if I have my mother’s DNA and I have my DNA, I can use the matches both or one of two kits tool and I can get three different match lists.

So, the first match list is going to be who matches both me and my mom. I don’t want this one. Then I’m going to have one that is matches me but not my mom. That is the list that I want because that’s the list of matches to my father. So I can actually select as many of those as I want and include those in my Lazarus kit, and that gives me a lot of distant matches. Now in my research of creating kits as far as distant matches, the more distant matches the better. For instance, between me and my three brothers and my mom in groups zero, in group one, I put nobody else except for these distant matches in group two. And in group two I put 33 distant matches initially and that resulted in a kit of 1200 cent to Morgans. Then I increased that to a hundred of these distant matches, and some of these distant matches are only sharing 30 centimorgans of DNA with me or with my dad.

In essence. Now, just by going from 33 distant matches to a hundred distant matches, most of which shared much less DNA than those initial 33, I increased the size of that Lazarus kit from 1200 centimorgans all the way up to 1900 centimorgans. So almost a 50% increase in the overall size of that kit. So if you don’t have the siblings or some of the close relatives of this target person try to get as many of those distant matches as possible to put in a kit. Now because of the importance of parents and siblings or children and grandchildren, one thing to bear in mind is if you don’t have parents and siblings, you need to have at least two and preferably more children in order to get your kit to 1500 centimorgans. Now again, you can do that by either having the children’s DNA or having the grandchildren’s DNA of children who you don’t have DNA for, but if you don’t have at least two children’s DNA represented, you’re probably not gonna get to 1500 centimorgans.

Now finally, let me talk about the spouse. Now, the spouse is important, particularly if you might have some closely related family members, and if you have people who are related on both sides, because a spouse will take out those little small segments. However, for most cases that I tried, the spouse had very, very minimal impact. Yes, it would remove 20 or 30 centimorgans overall, but when I was up in the two thousands and 3000 centimorgans, as far as my kit, 20 30 centimorgans was not that much. So before I end, let me reiterate a couple of things that I said that I think are really important when dealing with Lazarus kits. First off, this Lazarus kit that you create at best is only going to recreate about 50% of the DNA. That DNA is not gonna be separated out into paternal chromosomes or maternal chromosomes.

It’s all gonna be mixed together. So one thing that you should be looking at whenever you are matching with a Lazarus kit is that is just a clue, and there is a much greater possibility that those matches are false matches with a Lazarus kit than with another DNA kit. And that is because those matches may actually be spanning part of it of a paternal chromosome and part of it of a maternal chromosome, which is all looking like one thing on the Lazarus kit. There’s no way to start to distinguish those in a Lazarus kit. Another thing to keep in mind is some diminishing returns. I mentioned that if you have more than four children, you’re not going to see much of a difference in the Lazarus kit, which is true if you go beyond about a hundred distant cousins, then you’re not going to see much more of a difference in the Lazarus kit.

But getting from 20 distant cousins to a hundred distant cousins that can actually have a significant amount of DNA added to that Lazarus kit. And finally, if you don’t have close relationships like children, parents and siblings, then it is really unlikely that you’re going to be able to create a kit that has enough DNA to be able to use the one to many matching. So unfortunately, Lazarus is not going to be able to recreate all of a target person’s DNA. However, it’s certainly better than nothing and I would encourage you to try it and see how much you can create. Now, it is just another tool in your toolbox to use, but it might be able to simplify some of the tasks and some of the matching that you’re wanting to do. If you have any questions about Lazarus kits and how to make them, put it in the comments below and I’ll try to answer it. And if you like this video, be sure to give it a thumbs up and share it with all your friends.