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Faces of America and Genetic Genealogy Testing

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings (“I’m Puzzled by DNA Claims on ‘Faces of America’”) writes about the fourth and last episode of “Faces of America,” a PBS documentary series investigating the ancestry of several famous people in America. This fourth episode included several different types of genetic genealogy to examine the ancestral origins and relatedness of the show’s members.

1. Whole Genome Sequencing by Knome

The first type of genetic genealogy was whole-genome sequencing by Knome of Henry Louis Gates and his father. This analysis examined Henry’s (“Skip’s”) genome for medical conditions and physical traits, and also compared his DNA to his father’s, thereby allowing them to deduce the entire DNA contribution from his deceased mother. This segment was actually quite moving, as Dr. Gates was able to establish this intimate connection to the mother that he and his father obviously missed very much.

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Pathway Genomics: A Review

Pathway Genomics

Kevin Davies, Ph.D., currently the Editor-in-Chief of Bio-IT World, recently wrote an article about Pathway Genomics in which he reviewed the company’s Health Test product (see “Pathway and Me: Consumer Genomics Firm Delivers First Results”):

“Earlier this year, I submitted a saliva sample to Pathway to get a feel for how the latest consumer genomics offering compares to the more established companies in the field. Pathway communicates the health results not by a numerical relative or lifetime risk but via a series of color-coded bins depending on their potential significance to the individual.”

I too recently had the opportunity to test my DNA through Pathway Genomics. (DISCLAIMER: Although this test kit was not free, I am a consultant for Pathway Genomics. This review, however, contains my own opinions of the Pathway Genomics Ancestry Test product). This is a brief review of the Pathway Genomics Ancestry Test, which examines SNPs on the mtDNA (for both males and females) and the Y-chromosome (for males). Using those results, Pathway classifies test-takers into one of over 1,200 maternal haplogroups and one of over 525 paternal haplogroups.

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Thank You: The Genetic Genealogist Named Among Family Tree Magazine’s 40 Best Genealogy Blogs

Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs

Late last fall, Family Tree Magazine requested nominations for the best genealogy blogs, and then opened voting for the nominated list.  Yesterday, they announced the winners of the voting.  Diane Haddad wrote about the announcement on the Genealogy Insider blog, and Maureen Taylor wrote the article that will appear in the May issue of Family Tree Magazine: “Fab Forty.”

I am very pleased and honored to announce that TGG was selected as one of the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs, in the category of genetic genealogy. I would like to thank everyone who nominated and voted for me.  I have been very fortunate over the last few years to interact with a fascinating array of readers, and I am thankful for every one of them.

When I started blogging in February 2007 (I just recently counted my third anniversary of TGG!), there were very few blogs in the genetic genealogy space.  Today there are a number of interesting and well-written genetic genealogy blogs.  See my recent round-up at “10 Great Blogs for Genetic Genealogists.“  Each of these blogs is well worth adding to your reading list.

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Announcing Family Finder – An Autosomal Test From Family Tree DNA

In a move that puts it in more direct competition with personal genomics companies such as 23andMe and deCODEme, the genetic genealogy testing company Family Tree DNA announced today that it will offer a large-scale autosomal test for genealogical  purposes.  The test, which will be available to the public in mid-March, will allow test-takers the opportunity to connect with matching family members across all genetic ancestral lines.  The test will launch at a price of $249.

The Family Tree DNA Family Finder site is now online.

Although other companies such as 23andMe and deCODEme offer similar tests, members of the genetic genealogy community have lamented the fact that their databases are populated in significant part by people who have no interest in genealogy.  Presumably, people who purchase the FTDNA test and become part of that database will be strongly motivated by genealogical interests, and thus will be interested in communicating with genetic relatives.

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Hacking Admixed 23andMe Ancestry Paintings

DAVIDE at the European Genetics and Anthropology Blog has an interesting post regarding 23andMe’s Ancestry Painting, at “Taking a closer look at your inter-continental ancestry results at 23andMe.”  In the post, he describes how to “rummage through the Flash data behind the “Ancestry Painting” presentation” to learn more about the SNPs involved an admixed Ancestry Painting.  The post includes the incredibly simple directions:

First of all, you have to make sure you’ve got the free Firebug plug-in installed. Right click on the little bug in the lower-right corner of your browser window, and choose “Enable all panels”.  Then left click the same bug icon, which should make a whole new section appear at the bottom of the screen.

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A Review of Familybuilder DNA Testing

familybuilder1

Familybuilder, launched in 2007, is a genealogy company that ranks among the top 10 online genealogy services in the world with over 17 million users and over 120 million family tree profiles.  Late last year the company began offering a genetic genealogy product, as I wrote about here on the blog (see “Familybuilder Announces DNA Testing”).

Disclosure: This is a review of Familybuilder’s Y-DNA service using a kit I received free of charge for purposes of this review.  Please note that this is not meant to be an endorsement but merely a review of the Y-DNA service offered by Familybuilder.

The results of a Familybuilder Y-DNA test includes:

“The Migration Map for you and your ancestors, your 17 Markers, your Haplogroup and the History of your DNA.  In addition, the ability to share your results with family and friends on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace as well as a downloadable PDF (suitable for framing).”

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Genetic Genealogy Tidbits

  • Linda Avey, co-founder of 23andMe, has started a new blog entitled The Life & Times of Lilly Mendel.  I’m looking forward to some interesting reading as Linda establishes the Brainstorm Research Foundation dedicated to the study of Alzheimer’s disease.

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23andMe’s Relative Finder Success Stories at ISOGG

ISOGG, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, has a “Success Stories” page where it posts short summaries of just a few the many successes that genetic genealogy has helped people achieve.  Today I noticed that there are several new summaries regarding “Autosomal DNA Successes,” both of which were the result of 23andMe’s new Relative Finder (currently still in beta testing).

Relative Finder

As I recently wrote, Relative Finder is a feature at 23andMe that allows users to compare their autosomal DNA to the autosomal DNA of others to potentially find cousins.  This has long been done with Y-DNA and mtDNA, but this is one of the first times this has been done with autosomal DNA.

Success Story #1

The first success story is from someone who used Relative Finder to identify a huge number of potential cousins.  After connecting one of his or her potential 4th cousins, the individuals discovered that they have similar surnames from a certain location in common (in addition to DNA on chromosomes 3 and 10).  This individual also wisely noted that s/he now has “a good idea of the path that two of my DNA segments took through my pedigree to get to me.”  This is something I wrote about recently in “The Future of Genetic Genealogy – Tracing DNA To Individual Ancestors.”

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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):

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Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation First to Adopt Genetic Genealogy’s New Industry Standard for Reporting Y-DNA Profiles

Today, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) reported that they are adopting a standardized Y-STR reporting system proposed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce and supported by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG).

The standardized system was first published in the Fall 2008 issue (pdf) of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG).

First, let me add a note of caution – this change ONLY represents a change in how results are REPORTED.  Even though companies report results differently, this does not mean that the actual DNA testing results are wrong or different!  This shift is NOT to correct errors in testing results; it is only to standardize reporting.

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