So here I am, sitting at the airport waiting for my first flight on the long journey back to NY from the first ever Family History and DNA Day at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree.
The event was an incredible success, with stellar speakers, inspiring and entertaining talks from Spencer Wells and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and excellent organization and execution.
Below is just a brief summary of the highlights I believe are worth mentioning, but be sure to check out other posts that have or will come out soon, including this one from The Legal Genealogist, and this one from Dick Eastman.
(A side note: as I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight from Newark to San Francisco, I looked up and saw a familiar face – Judy Russell from The Legal Genealogist! We shared the next two flights, although Judy was furiously dealing with an unfortunate hack attack on her website, which has since been resolved).
Press release from Family Tree DNA today:
Family Tree DNA’s Genomics Research Center Facilitates Discovery of Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree
— By Offering Low Cost DNA Test, Family Tree DNA Aims to Expand Reach of DNA Testing to Encourage Further Exciting Discoveries About Human Origins —
HOUSTON, March 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Gene By Gene, Ltd., the Houston-based genomics and genetics testing company, announced that a unique DNA sample submitted via National Geographic’s Genographic Project to its genetic genealogy subsidiary, Family Tree DNA, led to the discovery that the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree is potentially as old as 338,000 years. This new information indicates that the last common ancestor of all modern Y chromosomes is 70 percent older than previously thought.
Earlier this week, Ancestry.com began releasing raw data to purchasers of the AncestryDNA autosomal DNA product. Several others have written great articles on AncestryDNA’s new raw data, so I’ll point you to their articles instead of rehashing everything here:
Within the next few weeks and months, you’ll be able to use the AncestryDNA raw data at places like Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.com.
But note an issue that I first brought up on a mailing list last Thursday when the announcement came out. The following language is found on the page after you click on the final download link:
The raw data is subject to the AncestryDNA Terms and Conditions and AncestryDNA Privacy Statement. You must not use the raw data in whole, in part and/or in combination with any other database for any discriminatory, breach of privacy or otherwise illegal activity (for example, to re-identify any anonymous donor or to make insurance or employment decisions).
On Thursday, December 20, 2012, 23andMe and LabCorp (Laboratory Corporation of America) were sued for patent infringement in Delaware by Australian company Genetic Technologies Limited.
Specifically, Genetic Technologies has alleged that 23andMe and LabCorp infringe U.S. Patent No. 7,615,342, entitled “ACTN3 genotype screen for athletic performance.” The complaint is available here.
ACTN3 (Alpha-actinin-3) is an actin-binding protein encoded by the ACTN3 gene. A particular mutation in the ACTN3 gene (rs1815739; R577X) results in a deficiency of the ACTN3 protein. The non-mutant version of the gene is associated with sprint performance, the mutant version is associated with endurance.
23andMe does analyze the rs1815739 SNP in their tests (see “Speed Gene: Fact or Fiction?”). My own rs1815739 SNP genotype, for example, is TT, meaning that I have no working copies of ACTN3 in my fast-twitch muscle fibers. From the complaint:
This weekend I had the privilege to review an advance copy of “Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA,” a new book by author and genetic genealogist Richard Hill. The book is currently available at Amazon only in paperback (link here: Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA), although eBook versions will be available soon.
Many genetic genealogists are already familiar with Richard Hill and his website DNA-Testing-Adviser.com, where he shares information about using genetic genealogy to learn about your family, especially for adoptees and birth parents. You may also be familiar with Mr. Hill through the front-page 2009 Wall Street Journal article detailing his search for his family, or from the 2009 article in the Grand Rapids Press (“Rockford man uses DNA testing, Internet searches to find his birth father“).
Today, The Genographic Project officially announced the launch of their new Geno 2.0 project, a significant update to the type and quantity of genetic information that will be collected and analyzed by The Genographic Project. The new project will use an entirely new SNP chip (the GenoChip) designed specifically for Geno 2.0 in order to provide the world’s most detailed information about Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups (using SNP information) as well as detailed biogeographical estimates and ancient population (Denisovan and Neanderthal) estimates.
As of today you can pre-order a Geno 2.0 kit, which is expected to ship no later than October 30th (although you can probably expect it earlier than that).
Once again Family Tree DNA will perform all the testing, and The Genographic Project has worked very closely with FTDNA to design, troubleshoot, and use the GenoChip. FTDNA will perform both the Family Finder and the Geno 2.0 test.
I’ve written about Ancestry.com’s new autosomal DNA product, AncestryDNA, a number of times (see my review of the product at Ancestry.com’s AncestryDNA Product ).
Today, Ancestry.com announced the official release of AncestryDNA (see press release below). It is initially available only to Ancestry.com subscribers, at a cost of $99.
The launch page is here.
Ancestry.com Launches new AncestryDNA Service: The Next Generation of DNA Science Poised to Enrich Family History Research
Affordable DNA Test Combines Depth of Ancestry.com Family History Database with An Extensive Collection of DNA Samples to Open New Doors to Family Discovery
Ancestry.com (Nasdaq: ACOM), today announced the launch of its highly anticipated AncestryDNA™ service, a new affordable DNA test that enables purchasers of the DNA test and subscribers of Ancestry.com to combine new state-of-the-art DNA science with the world’s largest online family history resource and a broad global database of DNA samples.
“Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.” is a new series from Henry Louis Gates Jr., who previously brought us series such as Faces of America, African American Lives, and African American Lives 2. The show, which airs on PBS stations on Sunday nights, premieres March 25th, 2012 with singer/actor Harry Connick, Jr.
Last week I participated in a conference call with members of the show, including Senior Story Editor and Producer Leslie Asako Gladsjo and Chief Genealogist Johni Cerny. Also on the call, although only able to participate for a few minutes, was Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Here are some interesting tidbits about Finding Your Roots – and genealogy in general – that I learned from the conversation:
- Gates believes that genetic genealogy is deconstructing the notion of race; never has FTDNA or 23andMe returned an African American’s testing results and reported 100% African, for example. In other words, science is demonstrating that things are much more complicated than we would have guessed without the benefit of DNA.
- All guests on Finding Your Roots used both 23andMe and FTDNA for DNA testing – all African Americans participating in the series also used African Ancestry. While the guests receive all their results, we may not always see them.
- Many are still wary of genetic genealogy; many potential guests even turned down the series largely because of the DNA testing involved.
- Gladsjo and Cerny noted that DNA is just another tool for the genealogist; sometimes the guests’ DNA results were very interesting, and sometimes they were “pretty boring.”
I hope you’ll be tuning in tomorrow to see Finding Your Roots. I have a feeling that this is going to be a fascinating series.
PRI’s The World, a weekday radio news magazine, has a new piece by producer Carol Zall entitled “Roots 2.0: Using DNA to Trace My Ancestry.” The piece makes for a great introduction to genetic genealogy. I especially like the 35-year-old interview between the young Carol and her grandmother, as well as Carol’s interpretation of her results.
I spoke with Carol a few months about this piece, and she included a few quotes from the interview in the article. Also included is a 2-minute soundbite of our conversation:
Also featured in the main article are the always-fantastic Daniel MacArthur and Joe Pickrell (you can find both of them at Genomes Unzipped).
Both Daniel and I also contributed short companion pieces:
“Genetic Genealogy: A Powerful Tool for the Family Historian
Over at The Legal Genealogist (one of my favorite new blogs!), blogger Judy Russell, J.D., CG discusses Ancestry.com’s new autosomal DNA testing service in “Science and the “10th” cousin.”
As I noted in a recent blog post (see “WDYTYA Reveals More Information About Ancestry.com’s New Autosomal DNA Testing“), autosomal DNA testing was featured in the recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are with actor Blair Underwood. After revealing Mr. Underwood’s biogeographical estimates (74% African American and 26% European), they revealed a genetic cousin found in the Ancestry.com’s database:
The service identified a distant cousin (somewhere around the 10th cousin range) who lived in Cameroon (an Eric Sonjowoh). Mr. Sonjowoh was already in the Ancestry.com database, which is why they were able to compare him to Mr. Underwood. According to Eric, someone approached him in 2005 and asked him for his DNA because African Americans were trying to trace their family back to Cameroon. I’m not sure what database the DNA was in, but it shows that Ancestry.com has pre-populated its database with at least some samples from other public and/or proprietary data sources.