In 2005 the Wellcome Trust established a Â£2.3 million project (roughly 4.5 million USD) at the University Oxford to examine the genetic makeup of the United Kingdom.The project would be led by the renowned geneticist and Oxford Professor Sir Walter Bodmer, joined by Oxford Professor Peter Donnelly (a population genetics and statistics expert) and the Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow Professor Lon Cardon.
The goal of the project is to establish a knowledge base for analyzing genes that are linked to disease.To do this, the researchers hoped to gather DNA from 3000 to 3500 volunteers throughout the UK who live in the same area as their parents and grandparents.Each volunteerâ€™s DNA will be tested for 2000 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms).The data will be combined with each volunteerâ€™s medical history in the attempt to find a link between genetic make-up and the inheritability or susceptibility of a number of diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimerâ€™s.The data will also be used to isolate DNA sequences that characterize the founders of each region of the UK, be they Viking, Saxon, or Celt.
Although the article in today’s New York Times – “DNA Tests Offer Immigrants Hope or Despair” by Rachel L. Swarns – uses traditional paternity or maternity tests and not genetic genealogy tests, the emotional results of the tested can often be the same. What if DNA proves that your father isn’t your biological father? What happens when there is uncontestable proof that there was an NPE (non-paternal event) in your great-grandfather’s ancestry?
According to the article, federal officials in the Immigration Department are using “genetic testing to verify the biological bonds between new citizens and the overseas relatives they hope to bring here, particularly those from war-torn or developing countries where identity documents can be scarce or doctored.”
Here are some recent news articles that mention the use of genetics in traditional genealogy:
- Internet databases, DNA testing make genealogy an easy pursuit – but only for some â€“ An Associated Press story about the use of DNA testing for people researching genealogy in countries (such as Asia, Africa, etcâ€¦) with few online databases.
- Genes in fashion â€“ The anthropology department of the California State University has tested the DNA of hundreds of students to create an exhibit called “Immigrants All! Our Migration Tales and Genetic Trails” in the departmentâ€™s museum.
- To Whom Else Does Your DNA Belong? â€“ A response to reporter Amy Harmonâ€™s recent story in the New York Times.Although I donâ€™t agree with the strict opposition voiced in this student article, the title is very similar to the title I chose for my own response.
- McCoy tempers in famed feud may have genetic cause â€“ Many of the McCoyâ€™s, one of Americaâ€™s most famous feuding families, have a genetically inherited disease caused Von Hippel-Landau which cause tumors of the adrenal gland.This can lead to high blood pressure and hot tempers.It turns out that geneticists have been studying and publishing about the family for over 30 years and have traced the disease through at least 4 generations.
- Rogue-gene discovery could end family’s tragedy â€“ Another story about using genetics and genealogy to trace the distribution of a devastating mutant gene through a family.This gene, which triggers stomach cancer, has ravaged at least 5 generations of a family in New Zealand.
Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) proposed a piece of legislation before the United States Senate on 1 March 2007 called the â€œLaboratory Test Improvement Act.â€The Act is proposed as a series of amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).
Sen. Kennedyâ€™s statement(pdf) before the Senate, found in the Congressional Record from this month, defines his goal as â€œ[ensuring] the quality of clinical tests used every day in hospitals and doctorsâ€™ offices across the country.â€Additionally, he pointed out that the â€œtests are being used to diagnose illnesses, predict who is most susceptible to specific diseases, and identify persons who carry a genetic disease that they could pass on to their children.â€
The Daily American Newspaper in Somerset, Pennsylvania, recently highlighted a family surname study being conducted through a local forensics company.Â The Eustace/Eustis/Eustice surname Y Chromosome DNA study began in July 2006 and according to the news article the project has tested 80 men in eight countries, a remarkable number.
Ron Eustice, one of the leaders of the study and editor of the Eustice Families Post newsletter emphasizes the importance of DNA to his genealogical research:
â€œMost family historians have spent countless hours poring over genealogical records, trying to connect the dots.Â DNA testing is rapidly establishing itself as the newest and perhaps most reliable tool in the field of family history research. I believe that including DNA evidence is an essential part of family history research.â€
How many founding Asian groups braved their way across the Bering land bridge during those frigid Pleistocene ice ages?Was it a single wave of people who later developed into the three distinct linguistic and cultural groups that populated the Americas, or were there multiple waves of people each with their own language and culture? Or was it some mix of the two?The issue has been and continues to be a topic of debate.
Linguistic studies of the Na-dene, Aleut-Eskimo, and Amerind language groups suggested that there were three waves across the land bridge, one for each language group.Recent genetic research, however, has suggested that there was only a single wave of founding groups into the Americas. (Read a free online review here).
With the arrival of Black History Month and following on the heels of PBSâ€™s popular series â€˜African American Livesâ€™, increasing numbers of African Americans are deciding to explore the world of DNA testing and genetic genealogy.As a result many newspapers and magazines are taking the opportunity to introduce their readers to this increasingly popular avenue of genealogical research.
The Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado is currently three articles into a six-part series examining the role and effect of genetic genealogy in African American research [Thanks to Genealogy Reviews Online]:
Saturday, 17 February 2007 (Two articles, here and here).
Monday, 19 February 2007
Tuesday, 20 February 2007
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
Thursday, 22 February 2007
Friday, 23 February 2007