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A Conversation About Genetic Genealogy

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Leclerc at Mocavo about DNA, our genealogical beginnings, and so much more. Michael recorded our conversation, and it’s now available as this week’s Mocavo Fireside Chat!

If you’re curious about Y-DNA, mtDNA, or autosomal DNA, or have questions about DNA in general, I think you’ll enjoy this Fireside Chat. And be sure to check out the previous chats, it’s a lineup full of great guests!

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DNAGedcom Announces New Tools For Genetic Analysis

DNAGedcomThe DNAGedcom team (lead by Rob Warthen, Diane Harman-Hoog and Karin Corbeil) would like to announce the following new items to the DNAGedcom system.

Product: Jworks – Autosomal Grouping Tool
Developer: Juan “Jay” Pizarro
Release Date: May 12, 2014

Download or Locationhttp://dnagedcom.com/Auto/JWorks.aspx

What It Does: This Excel based tool sorts and groups your chromosome browser results from FTDNA into overlapping DNA sets and assigns the ICW status within the set. By following the paper “Combining Results from All Tests” , the tool can also be used to organize the output from all three testing services. You must have Excel to use this. A Mac Version is also available.

Directions: Full directions are found on a link with in the product interface on dnagedcom.com

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The 2014 International Genetic Genealogy Conference

I4GG

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!

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The AncestryDNA Witch Hunt

A word of advice: beware anyone who tells you to avoid AncestryDNA.AncestryDNA1

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.

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New Updates From Family Tree DNA

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.

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23andMe Will Continue to Sell Genetic Tests For Ancestry

23andMeYesterday, 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.

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Fast Company Magazine Features 23andMe and Co-Founder Anne Wojcicki


23andMe and co-founder Anne Wojcicki are featured in the cover story of the November issue of Fast Company entitled “Anne Wojcicki Is The Most Daring CEO In America.”

Accompanying the cover story are a number of different online articles, including the following:

Article #1 – “Inside 23andMe Founder Anne Wojcicki’s $99 DNA Revolution” by Elizabeth Murphy (not her real name – it was changed to protect the identity of her adopted daughter, who 23andMe testing revealed has an extremely high propensity for Alzheimer’s disease)

Article #2 – “Behind the Scenes of the Ad Campaign for 23andMe’s $99 DNA Test” – a brief look at how 23andMe is trying to recruit 1 million new customers. The article features a handful of tv spots, and reveals that many of the actors took a 23andMe test.

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The Science Fiction Future of Genetic Genealogy

GeneticGenealogyFutureStamp1Imagine the following scenario:

  • You’ve just received an email that your DNA test results are ready, and you log into your account. The welcome screen guides you through a tutorial and presents you with several tabs to choose from.
  • You click the first tab which reads “Your Ancestors.”  The page shares information about 35 of your ancestors from the past 300 years, identified because you have inherited some of their DNA, although you have not yet provided any genealogical information to the testing company. Each of these ancestors has their own profile page complete with dates, family members, and other information such as computer-generated images and a health report which are based on a genome reconstructed entirely from modern-day descendants.
  • You then click on the tab that reads “Your Reverse Family Tree,” which contains a partial family tree that has been constructed by the testing company.  Based on extensive and well-documented genealogies, there is likely only one way in which the 35 identified ancestors can fit together in a tree (although other possible combinations are provided along with statistical probabilities).  There are a considerable gaps, especially on your recent immigrant grandmother’s line, but the tree appears to be entirely consistent with your many years of traditional genealogical research.  Well, except for the family of John G. Rogers from the 1850’s; you’d copied that off the Internet years ago and never confirmed for yourself anyway.
  • Next you click on “Your Cousins,” which contains numerous close and distant relatives in the database.  Some of these cousins are Genetic Cousins (with whom you share DNA), and some of whom are Genealogical Cousins (with whom you share a genealogical relationship based on your generated family tree).  There are numerous 2nd and 3rd cousins matches.  There are also pending offers to join several citizen science and family research groups, including the “Descendants of Calvin Lane of Old Lyme, Connecticut” group, the “Family of German Immigrant Johann Kehl” group and the “Relatives of the American Franklin Family” group, each of which has a slightly different research goal.
  • Lastly, you click on “Your Memberships,” which offers – among other things – a discount membership to the Daughters of the American Revolution based on your predicted descendancy from Revolutionary War veteran Jedidiah Johnson (although you don’t happen to share any of Jedidiah Johnson’s DNA, he’s in your generated family tree with an extremely high probability (95%)).

While the scenario I described above may sound like science fiction, it’s the inevitable future of genetic genealogy and is much, much closer than you might think (okay, maybe not the DAR offer!).

Next month at the American Society of Human Genetics 2013 meeting, researchers from AncestryDNA will present their work detailing the reconstruction of portions of the genomes of an 18th-century couple using detailed genealogical information and Identity-by-Descent (“IBD”) DNA segments from several hundred descendants of the couple in the AncestryDNA database. In other words, researchers identified several hundred descendants of a certain couple living in the 1700s and then used the DNA shared by those descendants to recreate as much of the couples’ genomes as possible.

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What Else Can I Do With My DNA Test Results?

DNAIn addition to the information you received from 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, or AncestryDNA about your ancestry, there is a wealth of additional information still within in your DNA.  Below (in alphabetical order) are some of the most popular and well-known tools for wringing every last bit of information out of your raw data, and maximizing the cost of your DNA test.  Please note that I have not used or verified all of these apps; always use caution when providing information to an unknown recipient.

Apps, Extensions, Programs, and Websites:

  • 23++ (http://23pp.david-web.co.uk/about/) (FREE) – An extension for the Google Chrome web browser that adds additional functionality to the 23andMe website. The extension especially adds a number of features to Relative Finder.
  • 529andYou (http://goo.gl/FQSiwW) (FREE) – An extension for the Google Chrome web browser that works with 23andMe’s Family Inheritance: Advanced tool (found under Ancestry Labs or, in the new beta website design, under My Results, Ancestry Tools) to collect information about DNA matches.  The information, which includes shared segment data, is stored in a local database on your computer.
=&2=&(http://www.math.mun.ca/~dapike/FF23utils) (FREE) – A comprehesive suite of tools for analyzing raw data, including searching for Runs of Homozygosity (ROHs), searching for shared DNA in two files, and several advanced phasing tools. =&3=& (http://www.dnagedcom.com) (FREE) – A suite of tools for 23andMe and Family Tree DNA customers.  Users can download their matches, shared segments, and other data into a handy spreadsheet for further analysis. =&4=&
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23andMe and Udacity Partner to Offer A Free Online Genetics Course

Discover yourself at 23andMe23andMe and Udacity today announced a new online course entitled “Tales from the Genome: Adventures in DNA, Identity, and Health,” a Massive Open Online Course (“MOOC”) directed at genetics.  According to the website, students will learn about “fundamental principles of inheritance, gene expression, mutation and variation, development of simple and complex biological traits, human ancestry and evolution, and the acquisition of personal genetic information.”  The class is labeled as being aimed at beginners.

Although not announced on the Udacity website, the course will be available beginning on September 30, 2013.

The “Tales from the Genome” class will be taught by Matthew Cook, Lauren Castellano, Joanna Mountain (of 23andMe), and Uta Francke (also of 23andMe).  For more information, see the press release at Market Watch (“23andMe and Udacity Launch Introductory Human Genetics Course“).

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