Janine Cloud joined Family Tree DNA and the genetic genealogy community as an information specialist several years ago. She came from a long career in customer support at a large newspaper. At Family Tree DNA, Janine quickly moved up to the head of customer service. She has recently transitioned to the new position of GAP liaison and events coordinator. In this role, she is helping both new and established projects achieve their full potential.
Rebekah: Please tell me about yourself. Are you currently working or retired? What are your other hobbies or interests outside of genealogy?
Janine: My name is Lisa Janine Cloud. You can call me Lisa, you can call me Janine, or you can call me Lisa Janine. Some of my online friends gave up and just call me LJ. I currently work for Family Tree DNA.
My other interests include photography, writing, and motorsports, especially NASCAR. I combine those three as a contributor and editor for Skirts and Scuffs, a NASCAR Citizen Journalist Media Corps website. The site gives me the luxury of attending races with media credentials, and highlights have included meeting and interviewing three-time champion Tony Stewart, interviewing Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage Jr., and meeting and speaking with the legendary Mario Andretti. In fact, barring any unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be at the track April 3-7. I’m also an avid reader, and I love history, which goes hand-in-hand with genealogy.
Rebekah: How long have you been actively involved in genealogy, and how did you become interested in the field?
Janine: One of my grade school classes had a project that involved building a basic family tree. That piqued my interest, especially since I grew up knowing that my paternal grandfather was Cherokee, born in Indian Territory before Oklahoma became a state. Being a history buff anyway, the challenge of placing my family in a historical context was exciting. Fortunately I had researchers on both sides of my family; both my daddy’s younger sister and my mother’s younger sister did research, a great deal of which was before the convenient digitization of archival documents. They shared with me and gave me a great place to start.
Rebekah: At what point did you decide to become involved in genetic genealogy?
Janine: When I got the job at Family Tree DNA.
I was aware of DNA testing for ancestry because one of the most active branches of my family tested early. The Allison DNA Project began in 2001, I think, but I had no idea the company was in Houston until I saw the job listing. Before I began working for the company, I had only a sketchy idea of what the types of DNA were and no clue how they were used, but I’m a quick learner.
Rebekah: What genetic ancestry tests have you taken?
Janine: Family Finder and mtPlus. I’ve also tested with 23andMe and Ancestry so I would know what my customers were talking about when they discussed those tests.
Rebekah: Have you tested family members?
Janine: Yes, two of my paternal uncles and a maternal first cousin so far. But I have plans for more!
Rebekah: Have you ever been surprised by your or your family’s test results?
Janine: Yes! I had one of my uncles tested with the Genographic project so that I could get my paternal grandmother’s mtDNA haplogroup, and so that I could get a good subclade on the Y-DNA before transferring to FTDNA to do the STR testing. I expected the R1b haplogroup but I did not expect the R-L47 with distant matches listing Belarus and Lithuania as their MDKA’s country of origin. I was also surprised at just how many of my uncle’s matches had the Cloud surname. I’ve seen plenty of folks with R1b haplogroups whose surname matches read more like a city directory than a family bible, so it was a pleasant surprise to have the majority of his matches carry the Cloud surname, since my biggest, most frustrating brick wall is with my Cloud line. Probably the biggest surprise, though, was that one of his 111-marker matches (at a GD of 9) is not named Cloud and lists the Hebrew name of his MDKA. Fascinating!
Rebekah: Has genetic genealogy helped you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery?
Janine: Not yet, but I hope it will. As I said, my most frustrating brick wall is my Cloud line. I can go back to my great-great-grandfather with confirmed accuracy. Beyond that there’s conjecture but no solid confirmation. I’m also using Family Finder to explore other branches but sometimes that creates mysteries even as it makes connections. I recently had a second-cousin match and the kit manager made contact with me including a detailed pedigree and some theories based on shared surnames. When I looked at the pedigree, I immediately knew the straight-line connection was through my maternal grandfather’s sister, but upon reviewing the “In Common With” matches, found the name of a confirmed cousin from my paternal grandmother’s line.
Rebekah: Are you involved as a group project administrator? If so, what made you decide to become involved? What projects do you administer or co-administer?
Janine: Not directly. You’ll see my name and email address on a few projects for which I’m trying to find admins, but a big part of my job is to essentially be the group administrator for group administrators. While I won’t rule it out in the future, for right now, I’m not going to work with an individual project. I don’t know when I would find the time, really.
I got involved with projects because one of the tasks given to newly trained agents is working with group projects; setting up projects, answering project-related questions, etc. One of my strongest skills is building relationships, and I recognized early on that developing good relationships with group administrators would be an asset for the department, so while the clerical portion of the task moved to other agents, I retained the portion that involved intra- and inter-group relationships and dynamics because I’d built a level of trust with a number of admins and continuity is invaluable when interacting with projects and admins. As tasks moved around in upper management, I was offered the opportunity to focus on event coordination and group administration. I took it so that I can work with management on developing the tools and support we give to group administrators.
Rebekah: Have you witnessed success stories in your projects?
Janine: I’ve seen a number of success stories in various projects. I’d be hesitant to give many details, though, since I’m not sure which ones have consented to have their stories told.
Rebekah: What advice would you give someone starting out in genealogy or personal ancestry DNA testing?
Janine: First, if you aren’t absolutely sure you want to know, don’t test. Be careful of preconceived ideas as to what the results should be. The DNA doesn’t lie, and if the test results don’t corroborate the family lore, it can cause some pretty emotional reactions. Remember that DNA testing has opened a lot of doors in family history research, but some of those have been closet doors. Not everyone’s going to be thrilled over a non-paternal event.
Second, test every one you can, starting with the oldest of each generation that you can. Test everyone you can afford to test. Then, don’t assume you know how someone is related based on a cursory glance at their surnames. Go ahead and do the research to go with the testing.
Rebekah: What do you think the future holds for genetic genealogy?
Janine: The future looks bright for genetic genealogy. With technology advancing almost weekly, testing companies will be able to get more results with less sample than ever before, and as databases grow, more people will find relevant matches. Also, tools for analysis will advance, too, with the proliferation of open source programs, testing companies will find it to their benefit to provide better tools with their products from the outset.