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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 … Click to read more!

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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 … Click to read more!

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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 … Click to read more!

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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 … Click to read more!

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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.

Most surprisingly, however, the FDA indicates that … Click to read more!

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Big [Y] News From the 9th Annual Family Tree DNA Administrators Conference

The 9th International Genetic Genealogy Conference for Administrators is currently being held by Family Tree DNA in Houston, Texas.  As they try to do every year, there have been several buzz-worthy announcements already.

Family Tree DNA has announced the new Big Y test:
Family Tree DNA
Here are some of the basics about the new Big Y test:

  • 10 million bp sequenced
  • ~25,000 SNPs
  • Cost = $495 until December 1, 2013, then $695.

The “Y-DNA SNP testing chart” page at the ISOGG wiki has already been updated to reflect the Big Y test.

For more about the test, see these great posts:

There’s also a great deal of discussion already going on at all the major DNA-related mailing lists and groups.

Will you be ordering the new Big Y … Click to read more!

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Understanding Autosomal DNA With Just a Few Basic Tenets

Genetic Tree Showing Ethnicity LossUnderstanding the complexities of autosomal DNA can be very challenging for newbies.

However, there are a few basic tenets that I believe can help these newbies.  These tenets are essentially tools that newbies can use to analyze an autosomal DNA problem for themselves.

For example, here are the two very basic tenets that I typically introduce in my autosomal DNA lectures especially for the newbies:

  • You only have to go  back about 5 generations to start losing ancestors from your Genetic Family Tree.

So many of the issues that newbies run into can be resolved or prevented through understanding of these concepts.

The Coop Lab

The lab of Graham Coop, an associate professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis, maintains a blog where they often discuss genetics.  Today they published an interesting blog post … Click to read more!

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23andMe’s Launches The African Ancestry Project

23andMe today launched the African Ancestry Project, which has been in the works for some time now.  Participants in this project will receive 1 free 23andMe kit.

The project aims to shed light on the health and ancestry of people with African ancestry, an underrepresented group in almost every database (both genealogical and health-related.

Participants in the African Ancestry Project will receive 1 free kit per family, if they are eligible.  Eligible individuals must:

  • Have four (4) grandparents from the same sub-Saharan African country;
  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Have Internet access, be willing to take an online survey about ancestry and provide a saliva sample;
  • Live in the United States in a state that allows 23andMe shipping. (i.e., not Maryland)

And only one free kit per … Click to read more!

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AncestryDNA Launches New Ethnicity Estimate

AncestryDNAThere has been much discussion (see here and here for a few examples) of the so-called “Scandinavian Problem” with AncestryDNA‘s ethnicity estimate, in which certain populations appeared to be over-represented in the reference panel utilized by Ancestry.com.  I, for example, have no documented Scandinavian ancestry, but had 78% Scandinavian.  Many others experienced the same issue.

The AncestryDNA team were well aware of the issues, and have been working on an update to their ethnicity algorithm, reference panel, and user interface.  Indeed, at “The First DNA Day at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree” in June of this year, Ken Chahine (Senior Vice President and General Manager, DNA) gave a presentation in which he announced that the ethnicity calculations at AncestryDNA were undergoing a complete overhaul and a major update would be provided to all customers later this … Click to read more!

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The First DNA Day at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree

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 … Click to read more!