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A Response to the Genetic Testing Article in Vox

1This week in Vox, health reporter Julia Belluz (Twitter) wrote about genetic genealogy testing in “Genetic testing brings families together: And sometimes tears them apart.” The article focuses largely on testing company 23andMe, and presents the following thesis:

Direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies are revealing family secrets, many of which are emotionally damaging, without regard to those affected by the family secrets and without sufficient warning to the test-taker.

Unfortunately, rather than presenting a balanced view of the consequences of uncovering family secrets using DNA testing (and despite the title of the article), Belluz focuses only on examples of negative outcomes. The article is a perfect demonstration of “genetic exceptionalism,” the theory that genetic information is special and must therefore be treated differently from other types of information. Despite its many adherents, genetic exceptionalism is a theory without a logical underpinning.

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2

Announcing the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR)

header-logo2The latest announcement by the newly founded Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR) is bound to excite genealogists looking to further their knowledge, as well as those with with limited time or resources to attend courses in person.

VIGR will offer courses on a comprehensive list of genealogical subjects, giving genealogists access to a great curriculum year-round through the VIGR virtual platform. I’m proud to announce that I will be a speaker for the VIGR, and I look forward to interacting with the online genealogical community though my course on autosomal DNA. I am honored to be listed among the incredible speakers below.

No fewer than nine upcoming courses are already listed on the VIGR official website, the earliest commencing in November this year. Each will consist of a total of four 90-minute lectures, presented two each on consecutive Saturdays. Each course will also have extensive syllabus material and practical exercises, as well as time for Q&A. The institute intends to keep class sizes small, which allows for more interaction with instructors and a greater depth of instruction as compared to more typical genealogy webinars.

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2

Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2014 – Are You Attending?

In 2013, genetic genealogist and popular lecturer Maurice Gleeson organized Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013, the first of its kind conference in Ireland. The event was hugely successful (see all the YouTube videos here), and is back for round two in 2014.

The schedule for Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2014 has just been released (see “DNA Lecture schedule announced“), and features a great lineup of speakers:

  • Spencer Wells (Keynote Speaker)
  • Maurice Gleeson
  • Brad Larkin
  • Paul Burns
  • Catherine Swift
  • Emily Aulicino
  • Debbie Kennett
  • Richard M Byrne
  • Cynthia Wells
  • Kirsten Bos
  • Katherine Borges
  • Tyrone Bowes
  • Daniel Crouch
  • Patrick Guinness
  • Rob Warthen
  • Michelle Leonard
  • Gerard Corcoran

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12

Announcing “How-To DNA” – A Multimedia How-To Guide for Genetic Genealogy!

HowToDNAAnnouncing the launch of the world’s first multimedia how-to website for genetic genealogists!

How-To DNA (www.howtodna.com) is your how-to guide for genetic genealogy! The site will have short instructional how-to videos for beginners, as well as presentations and webcasts for the advanced genealogist. For example, you can already watch these short two-minute videos:

And there will be many, many more how-to videos coming over the next few weeks and months, including:

  • How to interpret your DNA test results
  • How to use a chromosome browser
  • How to use free third-party tools like GEDmatch
  • How to do so much more!

How-To DNA will also provide links to the latest videos, podcasts, and other instructional material created by DNA experts. As an example, listen to this terrific podcast with CeCe Moore being interviewed by The Genealogy Guys and get the latest scoop on CeCe’s involvement with Finding Your Roots! And if you weren’t able to attend the SCGS Jamboree, you can listen to Maurice Gleeson’s incredible talk about DNA and Irish Genealogy.

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1

Family Tree University’s Genetic Genealogy 101

Family Tree UniversityFor the very first time, Family Tree University is offering an online course (a four-week, instructor-guided class with material, quizzes, and extra credit homework)  directed to genetic genealogy! Announcing Genetic Genealogy 101, taught by yours truly!

This course is designed for the beginner, and will take you through the basics of genetics, mtDNA, Y-DNA, and autosomal DNA (including understanding your results, using third-party tools, etc.). In addition to the materials, quizzes, and homework, there are message boards where you can ask me questions about DNA, about your research, anything related to DNA. And you’ll be able to connect with and learn from your fellow students (all from the comfort of your home)!

The class starts on Monday, June 16th, and every week for four weeks there is a new lesson. If you’re a beginner and really don’t know where to start with incorporating DNA into your genealogical research, or you’ve received your results and aren’t sure how to read them, this class might be a good fit for you.

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8

Family Tree DNA – Sales and 1,000,000 DNA Tests

Yesterday, Family Tree DNA , the genetic genealogy arm of Gene by Gene, announced that it has processed over 1,000,000 DNA test kits for genealogy and anthropology purposes. Congratulations!

There are several sales available at Family Tree DNA that you might want to take advantage of, including the following:

Family Finder

Family Finder is an autosomal DNA test that compares your DNA to the DNA of other users in the ever-growing Family Tree DNA database. You can also use your Family Finder raw data at an incredible array of third-party tools, including GEDmatch and DNAGedcom, among others.

Although the test is normally $99, each Family Finder test is now $79 until June 17, 2015. The more family members you’ve tested and can compare your DNA to, the more information you’ll be able to glean from autosomal DNA. For example, I just had an aunt return her kit, and I’ll soon be able to compare her DNA to myself, my father, and her first cousin in order to answer even more of my family’s questions.

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1

Genetic Genealogy at SLIG 2015!

Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, noted on her blog today that registration for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (“SLIG”) opens this Saturday, June 14th, at 9:00 AM Mountain Daylight Time (11 a.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Central, and 8 a.m. Pacific).

Regular readers of The Genetic Genealogist may not be familiar with SLIG, which is an institute run by the Utah Genealogical Association. SLIG is one of a very limited number of week-long institutes that offer educational content for genealogists. SLIG 2015 will be held at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 12-16, 2015. Tuition for the institute is $375 for UGA members and $425 for everyone else.

This year there are 12 tracks at SLIG, including two at which I will be an instructor:

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2

A Conversation About Genetic Genealogy

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Leclerc at Mocavo about DNA, our genealogical beginnings, and so much more. Michael recorded our conversation, and it’s now available as this week’s Mocavo Fireside Chat!

If you’re curious about Y-DNA, mtDNA, or autosomal DNA, or have questions about DNA in general, I think you’ll enjoy this Fireside Chat. And be sure to check out the previous chats, it’s a lineup full of great guests!

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1

DNAGedcom Announces New Tools For Genetic Analysis

DNAGedcomThe DNAGedcom team (lead by Rob Warthen, Diane Harman-Hoog and Karin Corbeil) would like to announce the following new items to the DNAGedcom system.

Product: Jworks – Autosomal Grouping Tool
Developer: Juan “Jay” Pizarro
Release Date: May 12, 2014

Download or Locationhttp://dnagedcom.com/Auto/JWorks.aspx

What It Does: This Excel based tool sorts and groups your chromosome browser results from FTDNA into overlapping DNA sets and assigns the ICW status within the set. By following the paper “Combining Results from All Tests” , the tool can also be used to organize the output from all three testing services. You must have Excel to use this. A Mac Version is also available.

Directions: Full directions are found on a link with in the product interface on dnagedcom.com

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1

Announcing the Creation of Genetic Genealogy Standards

Genetic Genealogy Standards

Over the past few months, a group of genealogists and scientists has been working to draft a set of Genetic Genealogy Standards that can be used to guide genealogists and test-takers as they enter and explore the world of genetic genealogy. Importantly this document is not meant to be a manual, but instead is meant to function similarly to standards like the Genealogy Standards. From the preamble of the Standards:

This document is intended to provide ethical and usage standards for the genealogical community to follow when purchasing, recommending, sharing, or writing about the results of DNA testing for ancestry.

It is the responsibility of the test-taker to understand and consider these standards before ordering  a test, and when reviewing or sharing their results. However, all genealogists who utilize or recommend DNA testing should: (1) review and understand these standards; (2) strive to meet and exceed these minimum standards; and (3) assist clients with understanding these standards.

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