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Using DNA to Reunite the Clan Gregor

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James Stuart, known as King James VI in Scotland and King James the I in England and Ireland, issued an edict in 1603 that abolished the surname MacGregor and declared that everyone named MacGregor or Gregor must renounce the name or suffer death, all in response to the murder of the King’s Forester, who himself had hanged some MacGregors for poaching. A bounty of 1,000 merks (apparently a great deal of money) was placed on the heads of the clan leaders, with 100 merks for other members of the clan.

This the origin of Rob Roy, also known as Red MacGregor, or Robert Roy MacGregor. For the next 200 years The Clan Gregor endured this persecution. Men were killed while women and children were sold into slavery in the New World. Finally, in 1774, the Act of Proscription against the clan was repealed.

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Border Reivers DNA Research

A study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Human Genetics at the Center for Life in Newcastle, England discovered that only 50% of males with the last name Robson can be traced back to a recent single ancestor.The research, commissioned to create a new exhibit called “The Robson Encyclopedia,” compared 12 markers from the Y-chromosomes of 100 male volunteer Robsons.

Apparently the Border Reiver clan of the Robsons in the Tyne Valley was notorious in the 1600’s and was made famous in a book called “The Steel Bonnets” by George MacDonald Fraser.According to one site:

“The term Border Reivers describes a number of English and Scottish families who fought a seemingly endless series of bloody confrontations from the 13th Century to the mid 17th Century. Sheep stealing and burning each other’s homes were part of everyday Border Reiver life – they were rugged, tough people who lived by their own laws.”

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The Biggest Family Reunion Ever Based on Genetic Genealogy?

Yesterday The Jewish Press announced the “Kohen and Levi Conference: A Gathering of the Tribe.”The conference, to be held on July 15-19, 2007, is hosted in Jerusalem by The Center for Kohanim.The Center was founded in 1985 to “promote identity and knowledge among Kohanim the world over, and increase their feelings of awareness and commitment to their heritage as Kohanim.”The conference has a main page, a press release, and a brochure (pdf).According to the press release:

Recent scientific research and DNA testing has proven that today’s descendents of the biblical Kohanim are genetically related. Molecular geneticists have discovered the “Cohen Modal Haplotype” which is a Y- chromosome DNA lineage signature shared by a majority of both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Kohanim. This indicates a direct patrilineal descent of present-day Kohanim from a single ancient ancestor, genetically dated to have lived approximately 3,300 years ago, a time corresponding to the Exodus from Egypt.

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Recent Links to The Genetic Genealogist

I just wanted to take a moment to send a big thank you to everyone that reads The Genetic Genealogist and to all those who have linked here.I have a lot of posts percolating in my head, so be sure to stick around.And if you link to me on your blog, just send me an email (see here) and I will be sure to acknowledge you!

  1. EyeonDNA has an ongoing series looking at geeky lab t-shirts. I contributed a picture of my own geeky t-shirt for the series.
  2. On June 1st, Scienceroll’s “BlogMix: the best posts of the week” included my post on Watson’s genome “For the First Time, a Human Receives (Almost) Entire Personal Genome!”
  3. DNA Direct thanked me for the link to the Baylor University Press Release regarding the presentation of James Watson’s genome.
  4. Peter Suber, author of Open Access News, also included a link to my article about James Watson’s genome.
  5. business|bytes|genes|molecules (bbgm) reviewed the recent developments related to 23andMe in a post called “Googley bio” and linked to my article “23andMe Revisited.“
  6. For those of you unfamiliar with Postgenomic, I highly recommend visiting.According to the site, it “collects posts from hundreds of science blogs and then does useful and interesting things with that data.”I just joined recently, and the great thing about Postgenomic is that it joins stories together by subject.For instance, I have posts that are related to recent topics, here and here.
  7. Genomicron discusses Nicholas Wade’s incorrect terminology in his New York Times article “Genome of DNA Discoverer is Deciphered.”I mentioned recently that Wade may or maynot have had a choice in the title, but as Genomicron counters the entire article was flawed and Wade has had this problem in the past.
  8. The Genetics Education Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center.This site, aimed at educators who want to learn more about the human genome, is actually a great site for anyone interested in genetics!I’m planning on mining it for information myself, and if I find anything interesting I will be sure to share it with you.

My four-part series called “You and the $1000 Genome” gathered lots of links:

EyeonDNA included the series in the recent 8th edition of Gene Genie.There are a lot of great authors in this list of articles! EyeonDNA had also mentioned the series in a previous post requesting submissions for the Gene Genie! Every Saturday, Scienceroll

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Daughters of Eve in DNA Paintings

Artist Ulla Plougmand-Turner has created paintings of The Seven Daughters of Eve using paint that contains reconstructed ancient DNA manufactured by Oxford Ancestors.

Most genetic genealogists are very familiar with Bryan Sykes’ Seven Daughters of Eve, the 7 “clan mothers” (Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine, and Jasmine) from whom the majority of Europeans are believed to obtain their mitochondrial DNA.Note that there are many more “clan mothers” located throughout the world – I, for instance, am descended from clan Aiyana.

The exhibition was commissioned by Professor Bryan Sykes, the head of Human Genetics at Oxford University and the founder of Oxford Ancestors.Prof. Sykes met Ms. Plougmand-Turner by chance when he was taking DNA samples from villagers at Longleat.

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Genetic Genealogy In the News

The L.A. Daily News published an article yesterday titled “DNA testing helps find lost legacies and cements connections.”

The article discusses the success some individuals have had using genetic genealogy. For example, Edwin Blancher suspected that his oldest known relative changed his surname from Blanchard to Blancher.DNA testing suggests that he did.

And Doug Miller of California has confirmed that neither his Y chromosome nor his mtDNA are of Native American descent.

[Thanks to Hsien at EyeonDNA for the article!]

The Future of Genetic Genealogy

I have to admit, during the past few months I’ve worried about future of those companies offering genetic genealogy testing (there are at least 31; see the sidebar). I know it’s a funny thing to worry about, but I guess I’m just trying to figure out what the future holds for this type of testing.

My biggest concern, of course, is that whole-genome sequencing will signal the end of many of these companies, at least the ones who do not offer whole-genome sequencing. (By the way, are you sick of hearing about genomic sequencing yet? Lately I feel like I should change the name of the blog to “The Genomic Genealogist” or something like that!). Some might ask, for instance, why one should bother ordering multiple tests once whole-genome sequencing is affordable. And it’s a great question, because we are getting sooo close to that goal!

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Lotsa Links – Forbes Magazine and Genetic Genealogy

The Forbes Series – Forbes has an excellent series of articles relating to genomic sequencing and genetic genealogy.It is well-timed and full of interesting things to think about.I highly recommend reading them all!

1. Will You Get Cancer?

2. The Telltale Tumor

3. Never Mind You – What About Me?

4. Genes of the Rich and Famous

5. Genealogy Gets Genetic

6. 12 Genes That Could Change Your Life

 

“Genome of DNA Pioneer is Deciphered”-This is a write-up by Nicholas Wade in the New York Times.Unfortunately, Mr, Wade used the word ‘deciphered’ in the article rather than ‘sequenced’.I’m not convinced that this was his choice, but he’s getting some flack for it.In any event, it appears that Watson’s sequence took 2 DVDs rather than just one!  There’s a write-up at Nature News as well.

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For the First Time, a Human Receives (Almost) Entire Personal Genome!

watson_james.jpgAdmit it, you’re dying to get your hands on Watson’s genome, aren’t you? Who isn’t?! Yesterday James Watson was handed his sequenced genome on DVD from 454 Life Sciences. There’s a great press release from the Baylor College of Medicine where the ceremony took place.

In a very big day for genetics and human beings alike, Watson was the first person to be handed his entire genetic sequence (for those in the know, Venter only received some or most of his sequence according to most sources).

Amazingly, according to the press release, the genome was sequenced over two months for $1 million. Incredible, considering the Human Genome Project took years and billions of dollars, and even Venter’s project took $300 million.

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