This week in Vox, health reporter Julia Belluz (Twitter) wrote about genetic genealogy testing in “Genetic testing brings families together: And sometimes tears them apart.” The article focuses largely on testing company 23andMe, and presents the following thesis:
Direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies are revealing family secrets, many of which are emotionally damaging, without regard to those affected by the family secrets and without sufficient warning to the test-taker.
Unfortunately, rather than presenting a balanced view of the consequences of uncovering family secrets using DNA testing (and despite the title of the article), Belluz focuses only on examples of negative outcomes. The article is a perfect demonstration of “genetic exceptionalism,” the theory that genetic information is special and must therefore be treated differently from other types of information. Despite its many adherents, genetic exceptionalism is a theory without a logical underpinning.
Yesterday, Family Tree DNA , the genetic genealogy arm of Gene by Gene, announced that it has processed over 1,000,000 DNA test kits for genealogy and anthropology purposes. Congratulations!
There are several sales available at Family Tree DNA that you might want to take advantage of, including the following:
Family Finder is an autosomal DNA test that compares your DNA to the DNA of other users in the ever-growing Family Tree DNA database. You can also use your Family Finder raw data at an incredible array of third-party tools, including GEDmatch and DNAGedcom, among others.
Although the test is normally $99, each Family Finder test is now $79 until June 17, 2015
. The more family members you’ve tested and can compare your DNA to, the more information you’ll be able to glean from autosomal DNA. For example, I just had an aunt return her kit, and I’ll soon be able to compare her DNA to myself, my father, and her first cousin in order to answer even more of my family’s questions.
Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, noted on her blog today that registration for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (“SLIG”) opens this Saturday, June 14th, at 9:00 AM Mountain Daylight Time (11 a.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Central, and 8 a.m. Pacific).
Regular readers of The Genetic Genealogist may not be familiar with SLIG, which is an institute run by the Utah Genealogical Association. SLIG is one of a very limited number of week-long institutes that offer educational content for genealogists. SLIG 2015 will be held at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 12-16, 2015. Tuition for the institute is $375 for UGA members and $425 for everyone else.
This year there are 12 tracks at SLIG, including two at which I will be an instructor:
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!
The 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 Location: http://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
Genetic Genealogy Standards
Over the past few months, a group of genealogists and scientists has been working to draft a set of Genetic Genealogy Standards that can be used to guide genealogists and test-takers as they enter and explore the world of genetic genealogy. Importantly this document is not meant to be a manual, but instead is meant to function similarly to standards like the Genealogy Standards. From the preamble of the Standards:
This document is intended to provide ethical and usage standards for the genealogical community to follow when purchasing, recommending, sharing, or writing about the results of DNA testing for ancestry.
It is the responsibility of the test-taker to understand and consider these standards before ordering a test, and when reviewing or sharing their results. However, all genealogists who utilize or recommend DNA testing should: (1) review and understand these standards; (2) strive to meet and exceed these minimum standards; and (3) assist clients with understanding these standards.
Although they have not released any new big tools recently, 23andMe is constantly providing new ways for consumers to interact with the company and learn about genetics.
For example, over at Pinterest, 23andMe now has “What We’re Reading,” which is a great way to stay on top of the latest in the field of personal genomics. A number of my fellow genealogists have taken to using Pinterest both as a way to promote their business and as a way to share information or interests. Social media guru Thomas MacEntee has an article at Family Tree Magazine entitled “Using Pinterest for Genealogy Research,” and his own Presentations board, for example. Although I have a Pinterest presence, I haven’t yet used it for genealogy.
Today at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, Dick Eastman writes in “Avoid Dating Your Cousin – There’s an App for That” about a smartphone app that allows users to “bump” their smartphones – gently bump them together – in order to determine if and how they are related. The Islendiga-App has been around for some time, as other articles discussing the app appear as early as April 2013.
Not surprisingly, it was created in Iceland where genealogies are incredibly detailed and comprehensive. From Dick’s post:
To determine if a potential date is a possible cousin, Icelanders often check the Íslendingabók database. Now a smartphone app will do that for you quickly and easily. Three students from the University of Iceland created a smartphone app, The Islendiga-App, that allows you to bump your phone against another person’s phone, similar to how bump-to-push contact exchange features work, and immediately see your genealogical (if any) relation to the person in question. There is even an alarm feature that lets you know if you share a grandparent.
Summary: DNA from genetic cousins will be used to recreate the genomes of unknown ancestors who reside completely behind brick walls. While traditional research will often be able to provide a potential identity for the recreated genome, sometimes the individual will be known only by his or her DNA.
Into the Future!
Long-time readers of The Genetic Genealogist know that in addition to writing about the latest developments in genetic ancestry testing, I occasionally write about the future of genetic genealogy based on current trends and developments. This is something I’ve been doing since at least 2007, with posts like “The Future of Genetic Genealogy” and “A Single Colon Cancer Gene Traced to 1630 – The Future of Genetic Genealogy?”
Below are a few of my favorite tweets over the past few weeks. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for the latest in the world of genetic genealogy and personal genomics!
- “DNA for Genealogists” – Flipboard from Kathleen Brandt (March 10, 2014)
- The importance of (at DNA) testing all siblings! See “Sibling rivalry” at The Legal Genealogist – (March 9, 2014)
- Incredible charts! “Your Family: Past, Present, and Future” from – (March 7, 2014)
- Genea-Musings: “Who Contributed to My X-Chromosome? My List” Great use of X-DNA charts – (March 7, 2014)
- “Ancestry DNA Advances Exploration of African American Ethnic Origins” with Coupling Genetic Science – (March 4, 2014)
- “Genetic Testing Needs a Nudge” re:- (March 1, 2014)
- Follow them all! “40 Genealogists to Follow on Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & YouTube“- (February 28, 2014)
- “There is no DNA test to prove you’re Native American“- (February 27, 2014)
- “Technologies of Kinship: Genetic Genealogists and Origin Stories”( Two Links Here: Link 1 & Link 2)- (February 27, 2014)
- “Announcing the 2014 Institute for Genetic Genealogy Conference” – (February 27, 2014)