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.
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).
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.
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 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.
So 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.
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 entitled “How much of your genome do you inherit from a particular ancestor? In the post, they perform a handful of different analyses using data they had for one generation of transmissions which was compounded over multiple generations.
There 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 year.
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).