Tracking Back

a website for genetic genealogy tools, experimentation, and discussion

Welcome

Welcome to Tracking Back, a website for the exploration of genetic genealogy and population genetics.

The emphasis here is on getting the most out of personal Y-STR DNA data by applying original algorithms to create informative graphics. If you're like me, you find large tables and spreadsheets more exhausting than inspiring. DNA is an intrinsically digital medium for information, and so its patterns are ideally suited for computer analysis and visualization.

There are tools to explore. Some let you simulate DNA patterns to better understand what is and is not reasonable to expect from your own DNA data. Others let you copy-and-paste data from Family Tree DNA to visualize what can be inferred from the Y STR patterns of hundreds of men.

The Research Reports are my own observations and explanations. They describe my intentions, conclusions, and sometimes get into considerable depth about the math and algorithms. Most of them are directly related to the tools at this site. Formal publishing is, at the moment, too slow and troublesome to be worthwhile.

A gallery of static images is a useful way to share large graphics and examples.

This is not a blog, for several reasons. First, this website features original and complex software which common blog hosting sites do not support. All of the software runs client-side, on your computer or tablet. I do not maintain a server or database, which also means that there are no GDPR or privacy concerns here — you can investigate whatever data you bring but nothing is stored and no one else can see what you're doing. Also, my interests are in the advancement of methods and visualizations and I do not specialize or restrict the tools and discussion to any particular region or haplogroup1. Addressing your personal ancestry questions is Ok up to a point but not the focus here; there are plenty of other sites for that. But if you're interested in the science and math, or have an idea for something else that could be done with DNA data (especially STRs), by all means click the contact button below.

I am grateful for the feedback and interest received from the very engaged crew at David Langton's FTDNA England GB Groups EIJ project, from Maurice Gleeson who has been patient and supportive as I've climbed my own learning curve, and from Iain McDonald who has asked deep questions and challenged my thinking.

Questions, comments, requests ?   Contact Me
Rob Spencer

  1. As a scientist, I find the whole question of identity to be simplistic and naïve. The ancestral answer depends on "which branch?" and "when?". In my case, if when = now, I'd say a retiree from Connecticut. If when = 1800 on my paternal line, I'd say a farmer from Vermont. If when = 1600, then a sheep herder in Bedfordshire England. For 1000 AD, probably rural France; for 200 AD, somewhere on the Mediterranean coast as a Roman soldier or slave. And if when = 60,000 years ago or before, then an Africa hunter-gatherer, like all of us.