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Are You Thinking About Genetic Testing?

dna-stock_phixr.JPGIf you’re thinking about jumping into the field of genetic testing (whether for genetic genealogy or any other form of genetic test), you should be sure to do some research first. The results of any genetic test are incredibly personal, and can potentially have a huge impact. As a result, the decision to undergo testing should only be made after doing some vital research.

Luckily, a fellow DNA Network blogger has written a post that will help you do this important pre-testing research. Hsien at Eye on DNA has written “How to Prepare Yourself for a Genetic Test.” Hsien provides the following advice:

“Although you can’t change your DNA, it is possible to prep yourself for a DNA test just as it’s possible to prep yourself for a driving test. It is critically … Click to read more!

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Another Questionable Article About Genetic Genealogy

I honestly don’t know what to do with this next article. Meredith F. Small Ph.D., an anthropologist at Cornell University, wrote a brief article at LiveScience entitled “DNA Kits: Secrets of Your Past or Scientific Scam?” Dr. Small’s article is largely a comment on the article that appeared earlier this fall in Science, “The Science and Business of Genetic Ancestry Testing” (I provided an analysis of the article here at TGG).

According to Dr. Small:

“[The quest for identity] also leads unwary seekers of the past right into the hands of scam artists who claim they can trace anyone’s DNA back to its source.”

The sentence is extremely misleading:

First – a scam artist is by definition a person who engages in a “fraudulent business scheme.” Although genetic genealogy can be controversial, I’ve never heard a single customer accuse a company of running a scam. To the best of my knowledge, these testing companies are using the best science available to test DNA and compare results to their databases. Are physicians running a scam … Click to read more!

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A Repost – The $1,000 Genome, Part III

[This is a repost of an article that appeared on May 26, 2007. Since I’m knee-deep in final projects and exams, I thought I’d pull out a popular article from the archives. I hope you enjoy it (again)]:

In Part I and Part II of the “You and the $1000 Genome” series we examined the history of the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics and the success of the International HapMap Project. Today we’ll talk about some of the ethical issues associated with efficient and inexpensive genome sequencing. The value of whole genome sequencing will only be realized if individuals believe they have complete and legal control over their genetic information. I am greatly indebted to a thorough analysis of this issue by John A. Robertson at the University of Texas School of Law … Click to read more!

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A Repost – The $1,000 Genome, Part II

[This is a repost of an article that appeared on May 24, 2007. Since I’m knee-deep in final projects and exams, I thought I’d pull out a popular article from the archives. I hope you enjoy it (again)]:

In Part I of the “You and the $1000 Genome” series we examined the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics, a $10 million purse for the group that can sequence 100 genomes in 10 days for no more than $10,000/genome with an error rate below 0.001%. With today’s technology this goal is still a few years away.

But do we need an entire genomic sequence to obtain all the relevant medical information that our DNA contains? After all, 99.9% of my DNA is exactly the same as everyone else’s! Why sequence that 99.9% over and over and over if … Click to read more!

Genetic Genealogy at the BBC

Megan Smolenyak of Roots Television (have you checked it out yet?) and Megan’s Roots World recently wrote a piece for the BBC’s Family History website, in association with their wildly popular Who Do You Think You Are? series.  “Genetic Genealogy – What Can If Offer?” is a great article for anyone who might be interested in learning about the opportunities and limitations associated with genetic genealogy.

And, you might see a familiar blog mentioned in the “Find Out More” … Click to read more!

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A List of Books for the Genetic Genealogist


A lot of people write me to ask me questions about genetic genealogy, and a few have asked if there are any books on the subject that might help them learn more about it.  I thought I should provide a list of great reading material to help someone who might not have time to ask (but keep the questions coming!).
Great beginner books which are specifically about genealogy and DNA:

Trace Your Roots with DNA: Use Your DNA to Complete Your Family Tree by Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner (Published October 7, 2004):

The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry by Bryan Sykes (Published July 9, 2001):


How to Interpret Your DNA Test Results for Family History & Ancestry: Scientists Speak Out on Genealogy Joining Genetics by Anne Hart (Published December … Click to read more!

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Dr. Kirk M. Maxey Shares his Expertise with Members of the DNA-NEWBIE Mailing List

The DNA-NEWBIE mailing list is a great resource for people who are new to genetic genealogy or genetic testing in general. The list provides a forum for questions while promoting education and the sharing of ideas. I primarily use the mailing list to follow current trends or concerns in the field of genetic genealogy so that I can share them here on the blog.

The recent deluge of media attention regarding J. Craig Venter’s diploid genome sequencing prompted one list-member to quote Dr. Edward Rubin: “It’s not clear whether it’ll be 10 years or 50 years, but in our lifetime, [individual DNA sequencing ] will happen.” The list-member goes on to say that it will probably not happen in his lifetime since he turns 75 next month.

Interestingly, the list-member’s … Click to read more!

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Y-STR Conversions


The results of a Y-DNA test are either a string of plusses and minuses, or a series of numbers. The plusses and minuses are the result of a SNP (single-nucleotide polymorphism) test and denote the testee’s Haplogroup, while the string of numbers are the result of a STR (short tandem repeat) test and denote the testee’s haplotype.
To learn more one’s haplotype, or to compare it to other’s results, most people enter those results into a database such as Ysearch, Ybase, SMGF, YHRD, or the Y-STR Database. To do this, however, it is sometimes necessary to ‘normalize’ the numbers. For instance, one testing company might find a result of 27 for DYS481 while another finds a result of 23 on the same individual. This is typically due to different sequencing primers used by each company to characterize … Click to read more!

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Gene Genie #13: Into the Future

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Welcome to edition #13 of the Gene Genie. There were many interesting and exciting submissions for this issue, so I hope you do a little exploring and learn something new about genes, personal genetics, and personalized medicine.

Splicing Genes. Let’s start off with something fun. I don’t know if we’ll ever try to splice our genes with those from famous or successful people, but here’s at least one conversation that might result!

With new genetic discoveries being announced every day, how does one keep up-to-date? Well, luckily we have a few helpful suggestions from our fellow bloggers. Scienceroll gives us 7 Tips: How to be up-to-date in genetics/genomics? And Clinical Cases and Images – Blog adds to the discussion with 6 Tips on Staying Up-to-Date in Genetics (and Any Specialty).
Genetically Naked? Berci at Scienceroll wrote a wonderful overview of the Personal Genome Project and gathers together many of the recent discussions about the Project. Reading the post, we are reminded of what a … Click to read more!

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Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam

In the past decade, scientists have repeatedly referred to ‘Mitochondrial Eve‘, the (hypothesized) source of mtDNA for all humans alive today.  She is believed to have lived approximately 140,000 years ago in Africa.  There is also ‘Y-chromosomal Adam‘, the (hypothesized) source of every living man’s Y-DNA.  He is also believed to have lived in Africa, but more recently, between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago.  Thus, Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromsomal Adam were not a couple – they were not the source of all human genetic material on the planet today.  Instead, the terms refer to the founders of all the mtDNA and Y-DNA respectively.

For a wonderful description of some of the genetic behind Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromsomal Adam, go to “The Questionable Authority“, a blog which is part of … Click to read more!