Thanks to Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and her team at Roots Television, I am able to offer an assortment of incredibly interesting videos about DNA and DNA testing here at The Genetic Genealogist! If you click on the link here you’ll be taken to the new page with the permanent video player (with more videos being added all the time!). This new feature will be readily available to everyone at any time by clicking on the link in the header labeled “Roots Television – The DNA Channel”.
Right now there are videos about three different genetic genealogy success stories. Unfortunately, genetic genealogy has received a bit of bad press lately, and many people are unaware that the tool has been used by hundreds (if not thousands) of people to examine and answer important genealogical questions. As I’ve said many times, genetic genealogy goes best when it goes hand-in-hand with traditional genealogical research.
Jesse Woodson James, born September 5, 1847 and died April 3, 1882, was an infamous American outlaw. Despite strong evidence that James was killed on April 3, 1882, some theorized that his death was staged and that he in fact survived to father additional children.
In 1995, researchers set out to use relatively new DNA analysis to examine the rumors surrounding James’ death. They exhumed the body believed to be that of James from the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Nebraska. Although the remains were poorly preserved, the scientists were able to obtain DNA from two of four teeth. They also had DNA from two hairs that were recovered in 1978 from James’ original burial site on the James farm.
The mtDNA HVR1 sequence from the teeth and hairs were identical and belonged to Haplogroup T2, with 5 mutations relative to the CRS (16126C, 16274A, 16294T, 16296T, and 16304C).
DNA Projects, often affiliated with a genetic genealogy testing company, are used to coordinate the testing and result analysis of individuals that have the same surname, originate from a common location, or have a comment set of ancestors. For example, I’ve started the Bettinger DNA Project for individuals with the “Bettinger” surname. An example of a project that hopes to analyze the DNA of a common set of ancestors is the Palantine DNA Project.
“Around 1709, the Rhineland-Palatinate region between what is now known as Germany and France was highly contested by each side. At least 13,000 residents left for Holland and London. The English sent them on to America where close to 300 families, led by the Reverend Joshua Kocherthal and the Reverend Johann Frederick Hager, settled in the Hudson River Valley, most noticeably in Saugerties, New York.”
Many people do not realize that the genetics of the future will rely heavily on the work done by previous, current, and future generations of genealogists. Researchers hoping to uncover links between a disease and a particular gene or mutation often recruit entire families or use compiled genealogical databases for information. Just a few of the recent examples of researchers benefiting from the work of genealogists include:
Genizon BioSciences will examine genetic diseases using DNA from descendants of the Quebec Founder Population;
A mutation believed to increase the risk of colon cancer was traced to a single family in the early 1600’s;
A recent study pinpointing the mutation responsible for blue eyes used data from the Copenhagen Family Bank, and;
Numerous studies published by deCODE, a company that uses an exclusive database of Icelandic genealogy (80% of all Icelandic people who have ever lived can be traced on family trees).
In honor of the contributions that genealogists have and will make to scientist’s understanding of the genetic basis of disease, and in honor of the many unique and well-written genealogy blogs, I created The Genealogists, a Feedburner network (subscribe via RSS here). The network, which helps unite genealogy bloggers and introduce new blogs to readers, currently has 18 members:
Car manufacturer Buick and the Generation Network’s Ancestry DNA have joined together to offer contest winners the “chance to discover your heritage.” To enter this contest, just go to buick.ancestry.com. You’ll also find a short video there about the PBS series African American Lives 2.
Ten first-place winners with receive a free DNA test kit from Ancestry DNA. An additional 1,000 winners will receive a “Family History Kit” which includes a copy of Family Tree Maker Essentials software, a DVD of African American Lives (not sure if it is this year’s or last year’s) and a copy of “In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past.” I personally would enjoy either prize.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen suggest that a mutation that arose around 6,000 to 10,000 years ago was inherited by every individual who has blue eyes (original study here). This mutation, located within an intron in a gene called HERC2, reduces the activity of a neighboring gene called OCA2. The researchers located the same mutation in 155 blue-eyed individuals from Denmark as well as in 5 individuals in Turkey and 2 in Jordan. From ScienceDaily:
“‘Originally, we all had brown eyes,’ said Professor Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. ‘But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a ‘switch,’ which literally ‘turned of’ the ability to produce brown eyes.”
In honor of Black History Month, Anheuser-Busch – through the flagship Budweiser brand – announces a sweepstakes called “Discover Your History” in which a grand-prize winner and three guests will be given a trip to “their ancestral background as determined via genetic testing.” Nine other winners will receive “genetic genealogy testing and ancestral family tree research.”
The testing will be performed by AfricanDNA.com L.L.C., the company founded by Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in conjunction with Family Tree DNA.
From Anheuser-Busch’s press release:
â€œOne of the most basic human desires is to understand who we are and how our family is woven into the broader, historic context of humanity,â€ said Johnny Furr Jr., vice president, Community Affairs and Supplier Diversity for Anheuser-Busch, Inc. â€œWe at Budweiser are proud to offer a lucky family the chance to embark on this remarkable journey of discovery. We hope to inspire others to use todayâ€™s technology to learn about their ancestors and region of origin.â€
DNAPrint had a big year in 2007 with a number of partnerships and new products, and many people have forgotten or were unaware that the autosomal genetic genealogical tests offered by DNAPrint’s AncestrybyDNA are just a small part of the company’s business. From the Nanobac press release:
“DNAG’s primary objective has been, and Nanobac’s primary objective will be, to develop progressive theranostics drugs, which combine extensively modeled drugs with genomics-derived intelligence to create more economical and powerful drug/test combination products with superior performance parameters. DNAG’s flagship product, PT-401, is expected to result in more effective treatment of anemia, and its Protectin(TM) (CD-59) diagnostic test is expected to allow patients and their physicians to more effectively manage the risks and treatment decisions for diabetes. DNAG supports its clinical programs, in part, through the sale of consumer genetics tests genotyping services on a contractual basis.”
According to some sources, genetic genealogy testing rises considerably during February, which is Black History Month (as I wrote about last February). Part of this might be due to last year’s very popular TV show “African American Lives” on PBS. Starting next week (on the 6th) is the first half of the latest version of the show, “African American Lives 2.” I’ll be watching, and I think most of you will be interested in the show as well.
In anticipation of this series, Diverse Education has written an article entitled “The Value of Knowing Where You Come From.” The author of this article, Cassie Chew, recently interviewed me and a few of my quotes made it into the article. The article wonders if there is a possible genetic explanation for behaviors that run in families. For instance, one of Oprah’s ancestors appeared to have built a school on his land, and Oprah recently opened a school in South Africa. Is the appreciation of education genetic?
A few days ago I wrote about John Reid’s “Where Has Your DNA Been” post at Anglo-Connections a few days ago. This is similar to another meme which has been circulating the genealogy blogosphere for a few weeks now, including “Where was your family in 1908?” at 100 Years in America and “Where was your family 200 years ago?” at What’s Past is Prologue. Steve at Steve’s Genealogy Blog has also given the ‘Map Your DNA’ meme a try. I thought it was a fun idea, and had a number of potentially interesting applications, if I were a programmer and if I had any free time. Absent that, I thought I would at least try to replicate John’s idea by mapping my location in 2008 versus the locations of my Y-DNA and mtDNA in 1808, 200 years ago.