The following is a guest post by Ann Turner, founder of the of the GENEALOGY-DNA mailing list at RootsWeb and co-author (with Megan Smolenyak) of “Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree.” Thank you Ann for this terrific post!
Genetic genealogists use autosomal DNA testing to locate people who share some DNA, enough to point to a relationship in a genealogical time frame. We’re not impressed by accidental matches that occur simply because all humans share 99.9% of their DNA. We want to be confident that the shared DNA segment is Identical by Descent (IBD) from a particular common ancestor, one who lived some number of generations in the past.
Two practical difficulties stand in the way of definitive confirmation. One is that our pedigrees are not complete, and we cannot test every link in the chain to prove that the segment traveled down the pathway we’ve identified through the paper trail. Indeed, as more data accumulates we frequently discover that a match we attributed to one ancestor must have come through an entirely different line.
Announcing the launch of the world’s first multimedia how-to website for genetic genealogists!
How-To DNA (www.howtodna.com) is your how-to guide for genetic genealogy! The site will have short instructional how-to videos for beginners, as well as presentations and webcasts for the advanced genealogist. For example, you can already watch these short two-minute videos:
How-To DNA will also provide links to the latest videos, podcasts, and other instructional material created by DNA experts. As an example, listen to this terrific podcast with CeCe Moore being interviewed by The Genealogy Guys and get the latest scoop on CeCe’s involvement with Finding Your Roots! And if you weren’t able to attend the SCGS Jamboree, you can listen to Maurice Gleeson’s incredible talk about DNA and Irish Genealogy.
Published today at MATTER is “Uprooted,” an in-depth look at genetic genealogy and DNA testing. The article contains numerous quotes from several names you’ll recognize, including CeCe Moore and me. Much of the story focuses on genealogist Cheryl Whittle and her roller-coaster quest to find her biological roots using DNA testing. From the preview of the roughly 10,000 word article:
“In Issue 11 of MATTER, award-winning writer Virginia Hughes tells Cheryl’s story, and describes how the twin revolutions of the internet and DNA testing have turned genealogy into a privacy minefield. After all, your genetic code is as personal as it gets — yet thanks to the web, you are no longer the only person who gets to control it.”
Thanks to Miriam at AnceStories, I learned today that The Genetic Genealogist was named one of the 25 Top Genealogy Blogs by Internet Genealogy! Congrats to Miriam as well, who was also named one of the 25 Top Genealogy Blogs. Miriam has a list of the other 23 sites on her blog.
I haven’t been able to read the article yet, but according to the website here is the description:
Blogged: 25 Top Genealogy Blogs to Help Speed Your Research! Tony Bandy highlights twenty-five blogs you can dig your teeth into.
I’m honored by this, and I think it reflects the increasing interest in DNA and Genetic Genealogy that genealogists continue to express. We’re approaching a critical mass at which point DNA must be part of every genealogists’ toolbox, and at least a consideration in any serious genealogical search.
An independent group of scientists has recommended that the Department of Defense (“DoD”) obtain and sequence the genomes of members of the military.
JASON, a group of between 30 and 60 scientists and created in 1960 which advises the U.S. government on scientific and technological issues, authored the report entitled “The $100 Genome: Implications for the DoD,” (pdf) which was released on January 13, 2011.
In the report, the scientists provided the following recommendation:
“The DoD should establish policies that result in the collection of genotype and phenotype data, the application of bioinformatics tools to support the health and effectiveness of military personnel, and the resolution of ethical and social issues that arise from these activities. The DoD and the VA should affiliate with or stand up a genotype/phenotype analysis program that addresses their respective needs. Waiting even two years to initiate this process may place them unrecoverably behind in the race for personal genomics information and applications.”
Robert Estes of DNAeXplain announces the discovery of a previously-undiscovered Native American haplogroup. Up to the current point, research had found only two Y-DNA haplogroups in the Native peoples of North and South America – C3b and Q1a3a (aka Q1a3a1). However, new research described in the accompanying paper (here (pdf)) uncovers a third haplogroup found in Native peoples.
From the paper:
“For the past decade, since the advent of genetic genealogy, it has been accepted that subgroups of haplogroup C and Q were indicative of Native American ancestry. Specifically, subgroups C3b and Q1a3a, alone, are found among the Native peoples of North and South America. Other subgroups of haplogroup C and Q are found elsewhere in the world, not in North or South American, and conversely, C3b and Q1a3a are not found in other locations in the world. This makes it very easy to determine if your direct paternal ancestor was, or was not, Native American. Or so it seemed.”
On May 6, 2010, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany presented the world with a draft of the genome sequence of the Neanderthal (press release here (pdf) and full article here (free), NYT article here). As part of the announcement, the team presented their conclusion that 1% to 4% of the genome of non-Africans is derived from Neanderthals:
“An initial comparison of the two sequences has brought some exciting discoveries to light. Contrary to the assumption of many researchers, it would appear that some Neandertals and early modern humans interbred. According to the researchers’ calculations, between one and four percent of the DNA of many humans living today originate from the Neandertal. ‘Those of us who live outside Africa carry a little Neandertal DNA in us,’ says Svante Pääbo. Previous tests carried out on the DNA of Neandertal mitochondria, which represents just a tiny part of the whole genome, had not found any evidence of such interbreeding or ‘admixture.'”
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 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:
Whit Athey has announced publication of the Fall 2009 issue of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy.Â This is Whitâ€™s last issue as Editor, and Iâ€™d like to extend my sincere appreciation to him and all the work he has put into JoGG over the past 5 years.Â Every issue requires hours of work to coordinate reviews and format articles, among the many other aspects of publishing.Â Whitâ€™s tireless work has helped add so much to the field.
Iâ€™d also like to announce that with Whitâ€™s departure I will be assuming the position of Editor of JoGG.Â Iâ€™m excited about this endeavor, and I look forward to working with the members of JoGG as well as the authors of the most recent research in the field.Â So, if you have an article or even just an idea for an article youâ€™d like to discuss, please fee free to contact me (blaine_5 at hotmail.com, or blainebettinger at gmail.com).