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What’s New With 23andMe?

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.

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“Bumping” Your Genetic Relatives

The Future of Genetic GenealogyToday 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.

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Genetic Genealogy in 2050 (or Maybe 2015?)

GeneticGenealogyFutureStamp1Summary: 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?

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A Few of My Favorite Links

1Below 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!

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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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AncestryDNA Discusses the Future of Genetic Genealogy at RootsTech

This morning at the RootsTech keynote session, Dr. Ken Chahine of Ancestry.com introduced the second speaker. He gave a very short introduction to AncestryDNA and provided a few tidbits for this year and beyond:

  • Later this year, AncestryDNA will be releasing a “more granular” ethnicity calculator. You may recall that they updated the calculator just last year.
  • AncestryDNA plans to release “new tools” this year, including improvements to cousin matching (which echoes comments made by Kenny Freestone earlier in the conference), and tools to “confirm family lines.” These two tools are AncestryDNA’s alternative to a chromosome browser. AncestryDNA has not yet provided a chromosome browser for several reasons including privacy.
  • Dr. Chahine also discussed, very briefly, the “not-too-distant future” of genetic genealogy:

– Results will be used to analyze the “migration patterns” of our ancestors, including “down to towns.”

– Results will be used to tell you that your “sixth great-grandfather” had “high cheekbones and blue eyes.”

Dr. Chahine concluded by saying that although this sound like “science fiction” it’s the future of genetic genealogy.

I wrote about all these possibilities in a post with a very similar title, “The Science Fiction Future of Genetic Genealogy“. While the things I discuss there all sound like science fiction, it is only a matter of months or years until all these are routine.

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DNA Standards and Certification – A Response to an NGS Quarterly Editorial

EDIT 2/8/2014 - I am happy to report that the group originally organized by CeCe Moore is still planning to work on standards, guidelines, and certification for Genetic Genealogists, and thus I will continue to work with that group. Thank you to everyone that expressed support, and I will try to contact you soon.

Original Post:

Below, I’m taking the unenviable position of disagreeing, at least in part, with an editorial by Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones in National Genealogical Society Quarterly entitled “DNA Standards.” (1)  I’m writing to share my viewpoint and my thoughts about moving forward, and to provide a venue for continued discussion on the subject.

This is also the first post in a series of posts about “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard,” culminating with a presentation with the same title at SCGS Jamboree 2014 (on Friday June 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM).

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Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond

Book Cover FRONT_V4 - 300 dpi

Fellow genetic genealogy blogger Emily Aulicino, author of dna-genealem’s genetic genealogy, has authored a new manual on genetic genealogy entitled “Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond.”

Congratulations Emily!

From the back cover of the book:

Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond provides genealogists, both budding and experienced, with the knowledge and confidence to use DNA testing for their family research. The book guides genealogists through the introductory level of understanding various tests to a more advance level of determining what DNA segments came from which ancestor.

Genetic Genealogy explains how DNA testing helps when written records stop and discusses how testing can prove or disprove oral family history.  The book describes which tests can help adoptees find their biological families and mentions a website that offers free assistance for testing and locating adoption information. Genetic Genealogy helps you understand why you resemble your relatives and explains how DNA testing can connect you with cousins you never knew existed. Steps for encouraging potential cousins to test are outlined.  The more adventurous can find guidelines for becoming a project administrator, a genetic genealogy speaker or a facilitator for their genealogical society’s DNA interest group. Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond will help both the experienced and the fledgling researchers become genetic genealogists able to use DNA testing to resolve their genealogical roadblocks.
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DNA Day 2014 at the 45th Southern California Genealogy Jamboree!

Family History and DNA 2014The Southern California Genealogical Society has officially announced the 45th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree (June 6-8, 2014), which will again be preceded by Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2014.

Last year’s “Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2013″ was the first of its kind and was a huge success  As a result, the Jamboree organizers have organized a second DNA Day, which will held all day on Thursday, June 5, 2014, which is the day before Jamboree begins.

The FULL schedule for DNA Day 2014 is HERE (Thursday Schedule).

Keynote Speaker Dr. Maurice Gleeson

The keynote speaker at Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2014 will be Dr. Maurice Gleeson, a popular speaker and the organizer of Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2013, Ireland’s first conference on genetic genealogy.  I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Gleeson at last year’s event (including about his interesting iCARA project), and he’s both engaging and extremely active in the genetic genealogy field.  I have no doubt his presentations and keynote will be fascinating.

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The FDA Orders 23andMe to Stop Marketing Medical Tests

23andMeSo by now you’ve no doubt heard that on November 22, 2013, the Direct-to-Consumer genetics testing company 23andMe received a uncharacteristically biting letter from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), a federal agency that protects public health by monitoring and regulating various products such as food, medicine, and supplements.

In the letter, the FDA expresses its belief that the 23andMe Personal Genome Service (“PGS”) is a medical product because “it is intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or is intended to affect the structure or function of the body.”  Accordingly, the FDA concludes, the PGS requires “premarket approval or de novo classification” by the FDA.

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