Today at noon, the American Society of Human Genetics lifted an embargo on “Inferring Genetic Ancestry: Opportunities, Challenges, and Implications (pdf),” which will be published in the May 14th issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.
This paper is a follow-up to a 2008 paper called the “ASHG Ancestry Testing Statement and Recommendations” in which a committee from the ASHG addressed concerns about the claims made by genetic ancestry testing companies. I wrote an article here on the blog at the time – The ASHG Ancestry Testing Statement and Recommendations – that highlighted a number of concerns I had about the statement and the recommendations.
When I wrote the November 13, 2008 blog post, I began by pointing out my personal positions, which have largely remained unchanged in the intervening 1.5 years:
In honor of mother’s day, I’m reposting a portion of an entry from March 16, 2009 (“Visualizing Your Genetic Genealogy“).Â It also follows a SNGF from Randy at Genea-Musings called “Matrilineal Line.”
In my genealogical research, I have sometimes found myself missing the trees by focusing on the forest.Â I think it happens to many genealogists â€“ we get caught up in the research, the dates, the places, and we forget that there was so much more to people than their vital statistics.
This can happen to genetic genealogists as well.Â The connection between the results of a DNA test and the individuals in our tree can be easy to forget and difficult to visualize.Â Take the results of an mtDNA test, for example.Â The results are obtained from a tiny piece of DNA that has traveled thousands of years (and often thousands of miles) through hundreds of individuals to end up in your cheek cells and on the tip of a swab.Â Everyoneâ€™s mtDNA is the product of an amazingly rich story that has largely been lost to history.
The following is a press release from GeneTree:
New GeneTree Services Enable Users to Make Sense of Genetic, Genealogy Information
- New GeneTree Products and Services Focus on Making Genetic, Family History Information Comprehensible and Meaningful to Users
- As a wholly owned subsidiary of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, GeneTree is able to Leverage the World’s Most Comprehensive Collection of Correlated Genetic and Genealogical Information on Behalf of Users
- Re-Designed Web Site Includes Enhanced Content and Features
SALT LAKE CITY (March 31, 2010) – GeneTree today announced that the company has launched a new product offering of integrated genetic and genealogical services unique in the marketplace for its ability to expand users’ knowledge of their genetic and family history connections. The company also announced it has significantly revamped its Web site, www.genetree.com.
GeneTree’s comprehensive new service offering focuses on integrating two essential sources of human identity: quality genetic tests and industry-standard family history consulting services. In contrast to providers that focus exclusively on anthropological deep ancestry, GeneTree’s product and service offering is designed to help people discover near-term family connections in the last six to ten generations as well as deep ancestral connections.
Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings (â€œI’m Puzzled by DNA Claims on â€˜Faces of Americaâ€™â€) writes about the fourth and last episode of â€œFaces of America,â€ a PBS documentary series investigating the ancestry of several famous people in America. This fourth episode included several different types of genetic genealogy to examine the ancestral origins and relatedness of the showâ€™s members.
1. Whole Genome Sequencing by Knome
The first type of genetic genealogy was whole-genome sequencing by Knome of Henry Louis Gates and his father. This analysis examined Henryâ€™s (â€œSkipâ€™sâ€) genome for medical conditions and physical traits, and also compared his DNA to his fatherâ€™s, thereby allowing them to deduce the entire DNA contribution from his deceased mother. This segment was actually quite moving, as Dr. Gates was able to establish this intimate connection to the mother that he and his father obviously missed very much.
Kevin Davies, Ph.D., currently the Editor-in-Chief of Bio-IT World, recently wrote an article about Pathway Genomics in which he reviewed the companyâ€™s Health Test product (see â€œPathway and Me: Consumer Genomics Firm Delivers First Resultsâ€):
â€œEarlier this year, I submitted a saliva sample to Pathway to get a feel for how the latest consumer genomics offering compares to the more established companies in the field. Pathway communicates the health results not by a numerical relative or lifetime risk but via a series of color-coded bins depending on their potential significance to the individual.â€
I too recently had the opportunity to test my DNA through Pathway Genomics. (DISCLAIMER: Although this test kit was not free, I am a consultant for Pathway Genomics. This review, however, contains my own opinions of the Pathway Genomics Ancestry Test product). This is a brief review of the Pathway Genomics Ancestry Test, which examines SNPs on the mtDNA (for both males and females) and the Y-chromosome (for males). Using those results, Pathway classifies test-takers into one of over 1,200 maternal haplogroups and one of over 525 paternal haplogroups.
Late last fall, Family Tree Magazine requested nominations for the best genealogy blogs, and then opened voting for the nominated list.Â Yesterday, they announced the winners of the voting.Â Diane Haddad wrote about the announcement on the Genealogy Insider blog, and Maureen Taylor wrote the article that will appear in the May issue of Family Tree Magazine: “Fab Forty.”
I am very pleased and honored to announce that TGG was selected as one of the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs, in the category of genetic genealogy. I would like to thank everyone who nominated and voted for me.Â I have been very fortunate over the last few years to interact with a fascinating array of readers, and I am thankful for every one of them.
When I started blogging in February 2007 (I just recently counted my third anniversary of TGG!), there were very few blogs in the genetic genealogy space.Â Today there are a number of interesting and well-written genetic genealogy blogs.Â See my recent round-up at “10 Great Blogs for Genetic Genealogists.“Â Each of these blogs is well worth adding to your reading list.
Daniel Vorhaus of the Genomics Law Report is also a member of the steering committee of the GET (â€œGenomes, Environments, Traits) Conference 2010.This unique conference, to be held on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 will gather together some of the biggest names in personal genomics, as well as most of the limited number of the people who have released their entire genomes to the public.Tickets for the conference go on sale today here.
As part of the GET Conference 2010, the new BioWeatherMap initiative will officially launch.According to the projectâ€™s website, BioWeatherMap is â€œa global, grassroots, distributed environmental sensing effort aimed at answering some very basic questions about the geographic and temporal distribution patterns of microbial life. Utilizing the power of high-throughput, low cost DNA sequencing and harnessing the drive of an enlightened public we propose a new collaborative research approach aimed at generating a steady stream of environmental samples from many geographic locations to produce high quality data for ongoing discovery and surveillance.â€
In a move that puts it in more direct competition with personal genomics companies such as 23andMe and deCODEme, the genetic genealogy testing company Family Tree DNA announced today that it will offer a large-scale autosomal test for genealogicalÂ purposes.Â The test, which will be available to the public in mid-March, will allow test-takers the opportunity to connect with matching family members across all genetic ancestral lines.Â The test will launch at a price of $249.
The Family Tree DNA Family Finder site is now online.
Although other companies such as 23andMe and deCODEme offer similar tests, members of the genetic genealogy community have lamented the fact that their databases are populated in significant part by people who have no interest in genealogy.Â Presumably, people who purchase the FTDNA test and become part of that database will be strongly motivated by genealogical interests, and thus will be interested in communicating with genetic relatives.
In October 2008, I reviewed an article by Dr. Alondra Nelson in the journal Social Studies of Science entitled â€œBio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestryâ€ (Social Studies of Science 2008 38: 759-783).Â The article was about the complex interpretation of the results of genetic genealogy testing by African-Americans and black British.Â Dr. Nelson is Associate Professor of Sociology at Columbia University in NY.
On Friday, an article by Dr. Nelson appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Henry Louis Gates’s Extended Family,” which is an introduction and review of the current PBS documentary miniseries Faces of America. Regarding the genetic testing aspect of the show, Nelson writes: