I know I say this every year, but 2014 is shaping up to be the year of Genetic Genealogy. There are many incredible opportunities this year for anyone interested in genetic genealogy to learn more and interact with others.
For example, just last month RootsTech 2014 featured numerous DNA sessions. This coming June, there will be an entire day of DNA at the 2014 SCGS Jamboree, where I and many other speakers will cover numerous topics related to DNA (see my coverage here and here). Among my presentations at Jamboree will be a completely new lecture that I’m really excited about – “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard,” which will be the first presentation completely devoted to the topic, and which I hope will spur some important conversation!
A word of advice: beware anyone who tells you to avoid AncestryDNA.
Many genetic genealogists, myself included, have had incredible success using AncestryDNA’s autosomal DNA test. Personally, several of my own major DNA discoveries have occurred though the service. Unfortunately, it has become popular among some genetic genealogists to deride AncestryDNA’s autosomal DNA test, and some recommend avoiding the service altogether.
While AncestryDNA certainly does have limitations, avoiding the service is missing out on a major opportunity and one of the largest autosomal DNA databases in the world. This is especially true for adoptees; anyone that tells an adoptee not to test with AncestryDNA (or not to test with any one of the three major testing companies) should not be assisting adoptees.
This morning at the RootsTech keynote session, Dr. Ken Chahine of Ancestry.com introduced the second speaker. He gave a very short introduction to AncestryDNA and provided a few tidbits for this year and beyond:
- Later this year, AncestryDNA will be releasing a “more granular” ethnicity calculator. You may recall that they updated the calculator just last year.
- AncestryDNA plans to release “new tools” this year, including improvements to cousin matching (which echoes comments made by Kenny Freestone earlier in the conference), and tools to “confirm family lines.” These two tools are AncestryDNA’s alternative to a chromosome browser. AncestryDNA has not yet provided a chromosome browser for several reasons including privacy.
- Dr. Chahine also discussed, very briefly, the “not-too-distant future” of genetic genealogy:
– Results will be used to analyze the “migration patterns” of our ancestors, including “down to towns.”
– Results will be used to tell you that your “sixth great-grandfather” had “high cheekbones and blue eyes.”
Dr. Chahine concluded by saying that although this sound like “science fiction” it’s the future of genetic genealogy.
I wrote about all these possibilities in a post with a very similar title, “The Science Fiction Future of Genetic Genealogy“. While the things I discuss there all sound like science fiction, it is only a matter of months or years until all these are routine.
EDIT 2/8/2014 - I am happy to report that the group originally organized by CeCe Moore is still planning to work on standards, guidelines, and certification for Genetic Genealogists, and thus I will continue to work with that group. Thank you to everyone that expressed support, and I will try to contact you soon.
Below, I’m taking the unenviable position of disagreeing, at least in part, with an editorial by Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones in National Genealogical Society Quarterly entitled “DNA Standards.” (1) I’m writing to share my viewpoint and my thoughts about moving forward, and to provide a venue for continued discussion on the subject.
This is also the first post in a series of posts about “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard,” culminating with a presentation with the same title at SCGS Jamboree 2014 (on Friday June 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM).
Fellow genetic genealogy blogger Emily Aulicino, author of dna-genealem’s genetic genealogy, has authored a new manual on genetic genealogy entitled “Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond.”
From the back cover of the book:
Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond provides genealogists, both budding and experienced, with the knowledge and confidence to use DNA testing for their family research. The book guides genealogists through the introductory level of understanding various tests to a more advance level of determining what DNA segments came from which ancestor.
explains how DNA testing helps when written records stop and discusses how testing can prove or disprove oral family history. The book describes which tests can help adoptees find their biological families and mentions a website that offers free assistance for testing and locating adoption information.
helps you understand why you resemble your relatives and explains how DNA testing can connect you with cousins you never knew existed. Steps for encouraging potential cousins to test are outlined. The more adventurous can find guidelines for becoming a project administrator, a genetic genealogy speaker or a facilitator for their genealogical society’s DNA interest group.
Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond
will help both the experienced and the fledgling researchers become genetic genealogists able to use DNA testing to resolve their genealogical roadblocks.
As I wrote previously, the Southern California Genealogical Society has officially announced the 45th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree (June 6-8, 2014), which will again be preceded by Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2014.
In addition to many presentations on DNA Day (Thursday), there are DNA-related presentations planned throughout Jamboree (Friday through Saturday).
Browsing through the schedule (links at top of page here), these are the presentations I found either directed to DNA or explicitly utilizing DNA:
- Blaine Bettinger (FR018) – “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard”
- CeCe Moore (FR019) – “Why Should I Take a DNA Test?”
- Nicka Smith, Angela Walton-Raji, Bernice Bennett and Shelly Murphy (FR024) – “The Future of African American Genealogy”
- Bennett Greenspan (SA037) – “The Future of Genetic Genealogy”
- ISOGG (SA049) – “Ask the Experts about DNA and Genealogy”
- Maurice Gleeson (SU020) – “Ireland and the Slave Trade”
- Drew Smith (SU024) – “DNA 102: Understanding and Using Test Results”
- Blaine Bettinger (SU029) – “Begging for Spit”
My Other Presentations
I’m especially excited about presenting “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard.” This topic has not received nearly enough coverage by the genealogy community, and I think it’s very important. I will absolutely be asking for input from others, so feel free to share your thoughts below (or on a future post I’m planning). Here’s the short summary of the presentation:
The Southern California Genealogical Society has officially announced the 45th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree (June 6-8, 2014), which will again be preceded by Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2014.
Last year’s “Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2013″ was the first of its kind and was a huge success As a result, the Jamboree organizers have organized a second DNA Day, which will held all day on Thursday, June 5, 2014, which is the day before Jamboree begins.
The FULL schedule for DNA Day 2014 is HERE (Thursday Schedule).
Keynote Speaker Dr. Maurice Gleeson
The keynote speaker at Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2014 will be Dr. Maurice Gleeson, a popular speaker and the organizer of Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013, Ireland’s first conference on genetic genealogy. I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Gleeson at last year’s event (including about his interesting iCARA project), and he’s both engaging and extremely active in the genetic genealogy field. I have no doubt his presentations and keynote will be fascinating.
Following a trend inspired by discussions at the recent Conference for Family Tree DNA Group Administrators, Family Tree DNA has released a new set of updates. This week’s update includes the ability to change the location for your most distant known maternal or paternal ancestors, and the ability to determine which of your Family Finder matches actually match each other. Although this functionality was previously available, it was cumbersome and was not accompanied by any visualization.
From Family Tree DNA:
Weekly Information Technology/Engineering Update (10 Dec 2013)
Matches Maps Locations Clear Button
Some users have requested the ability to clear their stored map coordinates for their most distant known maternal or paternal ancestors. We have added a Remove Location button to Step 3 of the Update Most Distant Ancestor’s Location wizard.
Yesterday, 23andMe provided an update on its blog (see “23andMe Provides An Update Regarding FDA’s Review”) about how it will respond to the FDA’s recent warning letter. In a nutshell, the company will continue to sell the same Personal Genome Service (“PGS”) kits, but new customers will only have access to ancestry-related genetic information and tools, and to their raw data. No health-related information will be provided, for now. Existing customers will continue to have access to all tools, including health-related information.
I’ll note that this is exactly what I predicted would happen in my blog post about the FDA warning letter (see “The FDA Orders 23andMe to Stop Marketing Medical Tests”). You heard it here first! It’s really the most logical approach while 23andMe communicates with the FDA.
So by now you’ve no doubt heard that on November 22, 2013, the Direct-to-Consumer genetics testing company 23andMe received a uncharacteristically biting letter from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), a federal agency that protects public health by monitoring and regulating various products such as food, medicine, and supplements.
In the letter, the FDA expresses its belief that the 23andMe Personal Genome Service (“PGS”) is a medical product because “it is intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or is intended to affect the structure or function of the body.” Accordingly, the FDA concludes, the PGS requires “premarket approval or de novo classification” by the FDA.