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Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation First to Adopt Genetic Genealogy’s New Industry Standard for Reporting Y-DNA Profiles

Today, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) reported that they are adopting a standardized Y-STR reporting system proposed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce and supported by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG).

The standardized system was first published in the Fall 2008 issue (pdf) of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG).

First, let me add a note of caution – this change ONLY represents a change in how results are REPORTED.  Even though companies report results differently, this does not mean that the actual DNA testing results are wrong or different!  This shift is NOT to correct errors in testing results; it is only to standardize reporting.

From the Press Release:

SALT LAKE CITY (Aug. 17, 2009)-The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) today announced it has implemented a recently developed industry-standard format for expressing Y-chromosome DNA profiles in genetic genealogy. The new system, or nomenclature, for Y-STR genetic markers will reduce confusion for genetic genealogy consumers, eliminate conversion errors, make personal DNA profiles easily portable and lead to more genetic matches when searching among different ancestry databases once the industry-wide standard is adopted. Y-DNA is an unrivaled tool for tracing paternal ancestry. Only males have the Y-chromosome, which is passed down virtually unchanged from father to son.

SMGF, a non-profit scientific organization with the world’s largest collection of correlated genetic and genealogical information, is the first to adopt the new system proposed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce and promoted by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). Genetic genealogy is the application of genetics to traditional genealogy and is a component of ancestry research experiencing strong growth through personal DNA testing and online ancestry databases.

“We strongly believe this industry-wide standard benefits everyone,” said Natalie Myres, director of research and development for SMGF. “DNA profiles will become more useful to consumers because they will not have to use a conversion process to search different genetic genealogy databases. For DNA laboratories and providers, this common nomenclature leads to greater reporting accuracy and saves time explaining to customers why their results appear different from those of another provider.”

Until now, genetic genealogy companies and laboratories reported Y-STR genetic markers in DNA profiles to customers in various formats developed for forensic DNA reporting. “As DNA testing for genetic genealogy purposes has become common and more people put their DNA profiles into online ancestry databases, the need for a universal format became apparent,” said Katherine Borges, ISOGG director.

“This is a big benefit to consumers,” said Borges. “They will definitely find more matches because of this new standard. Currently, consumers are often unaware they have to convert their results for use on different databases or are intimidated enough by the process that they don’t check a variety of databases. Also, some errors find their way into conversion tools. All these problems reduce chances of finding matches.” Borges estimates close to one million DNA tests for genetic genealogy purposes have been purchased to date.

The three largest U.S. providers of genetic genealogy DNA testing have committed to adopting the new Y-STR reporting standard and Borges expects the others to follow suit. NIST has not recommended a uniform reporting standard for mtDNA, the genetic material passed down from mother to child.

About Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation
The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF; www.smgf.org) is a non-profit research organization that has created the world’s largest repository of correlated genetic and genealogical information. The SMGF database currently contains information about more than seven million ancestors through linked DNA samples and pedigree charts from more than 170 countries, or approximately 90 percent of the nations of the world. The foundation’s purpose is to foster a greater sense of identity, connection and belonging among all people by showing how closely we are connected as members of a single human family. For more information about the foundation’s free, publicly available database, visit www.smgf.org.

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007

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