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Announcing “How-To DNA” – A Multimedia How-To Guide for Genetic Genealogy!

HowToDNAAnnouncing 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:

And there will be many, many more how-to videos coming over the next few weeks and months, including:

  • How to interpret your DNA test results
  • How to use a chromosome browser
  • How to use free third-party tools like GEDmatch
  • How to do so much more!

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 … Click to read more!

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Genetic Genealogy in the News: A 10,000 Word Article at MATTER

dnastock.jpgPublished 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.”
You can buy the full article for .99 cents at MATTER.  You can also get the … Click to read more!

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The Genetic Genealogist Named a Top Blog for 2013!

Internet GenealogyThanks 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 … Click to read more!

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New Report for the Department of Defense Recommends Genomic Sequencing of Troops

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.”

It’s good to see acknowledgment in the report of potential ethical issues, but there was no substantive discussion of them.  Deciding to collect DNA and sequence genomes of troops is, quite frankly, a no-brainer, and the report came to all the obvious conclusions.  What the military really requires is a report on how … Click to read more!

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Additional Native American Haplogroup Discovered by Genetic Genealogists

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.”

Estes is a scientist and business owner in the information technology arena.  She is the Administrator of the Lost Colony DNA Project, and more than 20 surname projects.  Her contact information can be found in the … Click to read more!

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How Neanderthal Are You?

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.’”

Once this study came out, I knew it was only a matter of time before companies began offering tests that examined the percent of Neanderthal contribution to a test-taker’s genome.

The Neanderthal Index

In May 2010, DNA Consultants began offering a test called the Neanderthal Index.  Priced at USD $90.00, the test purports to “estimate how much Neanderthal is in your ancestry.”  From the test description:

“Created in response to the phenomenal interest generated by the revelation in scientific journals on May 8, 2010 that most humans are part Neanderthal (Green et al), our autosomal DNA Neanderthal Index can be added to your DNA Fingerprint Test or DNA Fingerprint Plus. It reports any strong matches you have with populations identified as Archaic, those preserving the earliest earmarks of interbreeding between Neanderthals and humans (Homo sapiens sapiens). The stronger the match the higher the likelihood that your ancestors gave you Neanderthal genes.”

The site also provides an FAQ page, and a sample test result (pdf).  The test returns results on a scale of 0.1 to … Click to read more!

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American Society of Human Genetics Publishes Updated Genetic Ancestry Testing Statement

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:

  • After years of experience in this field, I am a proponent of genetic genealogy testing, a scientific endeavor that has been utilized by more than 800,000 customers.
  • I believe that education, not more government regulation, is the most efficient and appropriate answer to the issues raised by the authors of the paper.
  • I believe that autosomal genetic genealogy testing is in its infancy and should only be used with the understanding that the results are only extremely rough estimates that are subject to change as the field develops.

The 2010 paper begins with a brief introduction and a table of most of the companies currently … Click to read more!

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Columbia Professor Alondra Nelson Reviews The PBS Series “Faces of America”

Faces of America
In October 2008, I reviewed an article by Dr. Alondra Nelson in the journal Social Studies of Science entitled “Bio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestry” (Social Studies of Science 2008 38: 759-783).  The article was about the complex interpretation of the results of genetic genealogy testing by African-Americans and black British.  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:

If the findings of conventional genealogical research produce fireworks, the results of the DNA analysis generate shock and awe. “Know Thyself,” the final episode, which shares its title with the slogan of Knome Inc., focuses mostly on genetic genealogy. Whereas prior shows relied heavily on analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (Y-DNA), yielding results that included at most about 2 percent of one’s complete genetic inheritance, in Faces techniques are used that probe deeper into more of the genome.

The technical aspects of genetic ancestry tracing are explained, but without sufficient social context, much the way a manual can tell you how to operate a car without explaining automobiles’ role in modern industry, the development of suburbia, or the emergence of youth culture. We can’t hold a documentary for a general audience responsible for not presenting a complex metanarrative on the philosophy of genetic science. But we can expect some acknowledgment and interpretation of technology’s limits.

It is likely that some genetic genealogists will instantly disagree with or discredit Nelson after reading this article, since … Click to read more!

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New Issue of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy

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Whit Athey has announced publication of the Fall 2009 issue of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy.  This is Whit’s last issue as Editor, and I’d like to extend my sincere appreciation to him and all the work he has put into JoGG over the past 5 years.  Every issue requires hours of work to coordinate reviews and format articles, among the many other aspects of publishing.  Whit’s tireless work has helped add so much to the field.

I’d also like to announce that with Whit’s departure I will be assuming the position of Editor of JoGG.  I’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.  So, if … Click to read more!

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The World of Genetic Genealogy and DTC Genetic Testing Never Sleeps…

In the past week there have been so many articles and posts about either genetic genealogy or DTC genetics that I’m writing them up as a summary post rather than individually.

The New York Times Tackles DTC Genetic Testing

An article in yesterday’s New York Times by Jane E. Brody – “Buyer Beware of Home DNA Tests” – argues that DTC genetic testing is fraught with danger (the article and some of Brody’s arguments are summarized by Grace Ibay of Genetics & Health: “Seven Reasons Why Home DNA Tests Are Hype”).  The author even lumps in genetic genealogy (which has been around for over 9 years now, hardly a “new industry” that has sprung up “to cash in” on new science):

“As a source of entertainment at so-called spit parties or an effort to trace genetic ancestry, the tests might be seen as relatively harmless (unless someone is appalled to discover who their ancestors might be).  But for the many people who are bypassing the medical profession to determine, they believe, how likely they are to develop a life-threatening disorder, experts say direct-to-consumer genetic testing is fraught with potential dangers.”

Oh no, people might be “appalled” to discover their ancestors!  I can assure you that people were “appalled to … Click to read more!