This Friday, September 5th, I’ll be attending the FGS meeting in Philadelphia.Â I’m excited because this is my first big genealogy meeting (after 20 years of genealogy!), and because I get to sit and watch some great presenters discuss genetic genealogy.Â The program is here.
I hope to meet some other genealogy bloggers, if any of you are planning to attend!
I’ve decided to join the 2008 Genea-Blogger Group Games (see here for more info).Â I’m a little late, but the organizers have decided to allow entrants until tonight at 9:00pm PDT.Â The Opening Ceremonies were held on Friday.Â I’m hoping to put a genetic genealogy twist on my entries, if possible, to highlight how genetics can augment traditional genealogical research.
The categories I plan to participate in are:
- Back Up Your Data!
- A. Prepare a comprehensive backup plan for your digital research files and a security plan for your hard copies and photos
- C. Backup all your data using a flash drive, an external drive, CDs, DVDs, or an online resource
- E. All your data is backed up digitally and secured physically and you can recover from any disaster while losing only one month or less worth of research
Today’s interview is with Alastair Greenshields, founder of the genetic genealogy testing company DNA Heritage. Alastair is also the founder of Ybase, a Y-DNA database. I recently wrote about a helpful and informative video series by Alastair for DNA newbies (see “New Videos for Genetic Genealogists“).
In today’s interview, I ask Alastair about his introduction to genetic genealogy, some of the ethical issues raised by the recent launches of personal genomics companies, and about the future of genetic genealogy.
TGG: How long have you been involved in genetic genealogy, and how did you become interested in the field? Have you undergone genetic genealogy testing yourself? Were you surprised with the results? Did the results help you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery? You founded DNA Heritage in 2003. What led you to create the company? Can you also tell us a little bit about Ybase?
Terry Barton is co-founder of WorldFamilies.net (along with Richard Barton), a website devoted to helping genealogists host Surname, Geographic, or Haplogroup Projects and learn more about genetic genealogy. When I began the Bettinger Surname DNA Project, Terry helped me through the entire process of setting up the site. From the WorldFamilies website:
“Terry is co-founder of WorldFamilies.net, President of the Barton Historical Society (BHS) and Co-Leader of the 193 member Barton DNA Project. He is the â€œLine Leaderâ€ for the Thomas (1,2,3) Barton family of Stafford Co VA and for the David Barton married Ruth Oldham family. He has made a number of presentations about using DNA in Genealogy, the Barton DNA project and his great-grandparent’s “Barton House” and has written many articles for the BHS Newsletters and website.”
If you’ve ever even thought about testing your own DNA for genealogical purposes, then you are almost guaranteed to have heard of Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. Megan is the Chief Family Historian and North American spokesperson for Ancestry.com, as well as the co-founder of Roots Television, an online channel of genealogy and history-oriented programming. Additionally, Megan is the co-author of “Trace Your Roots With DNA”, the premiere book on genetic genealogy (the other co-author, Ann Turner, will be featured later in this series).
Megan blogs about genetic genealogy and other genealogical topics at Megan’s Roots World (which I highly recommend adding to your feed reader or daily reading list). In the following interview, Megan talks about her introduction to genetic genealogy, about the field as it stands today, and about some of the possible future directions of DNA testing.
At 12:01 on April 1, 2082, millions of genealogists around the solar system will be able to instantaneously download every image from the 2010 census into their neural storage chip, and within minutes these images will be linked to the ancestors in their 3D holographic family trees. Almost all of these genealogists will be able to find themselves in these census images and index.
Okay, maybe it’s a little premature to guess about the use of a census that hasn’t even been enumerated yet, but as most genealogists know, census results are the backbone of the genealogical world. Only one census has been released since the advent of the internet. In 2002 the 1930 census was released, and the countdown to the April 2, 2012 release of the 1940 census has already begun.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and my Irish DNA, here is picture of one of the many beautiful places I visited on my trip to Ireland – Slea Head, the tip of the Dingle peninsula, as a storm rolls in (2004):
Anyone who is interested in genetic genealogy has likely heard of Professor Bryan Sykes. Sykes is the founder of the genetic genealogy testing company Oxford Ancestors and author of very influential books such as Blood of the Isles, Adam’s Curse, and The Seven Daughters of Eve.
Sykes was recently interviewed by The Telegraph in an article entitled “Curiosity Drives the Gene Genie to a Â£1m Turnover.” The article mentions that Oxford Ancestors, created in 2000, is currently bringing in Â£ 1m year (USD $1.96million), which is an increase of 10 times its initial year! There is discussion of Sykes’ upbringing, and the difficulty in commercializing scientific research.
Lastly, Sykes discusses some future directions, including using genetic research to help solve crimes:
Many people do not realize that the genetics of the future will rely heavily on the work done by previous, current, and future generations of genealogists. Researchers hoping to uncover links between a disease and a particular gene or mutation often recruit entire families or use compiled genealogical databases for information. Just a few of the recent examples of researchers benefiting from the work of genealogists include:
- Genizon BioSciences will examine genetic diseases using DNA from descendants of the Quebec Founder Population;
- A mutation believed to increase the risk of colon cancer was traced to a single family in the early 1600’s;
- A recent study pinpointing the mutation responsible for blue eyes used data from the Copenhagen Family Bank, and;
- Numerous studies published by deCODE, a company that uses an exclusive database of Icelandic genealogy (80% of all Icelandic people who have ever lived can be traced on family trees).
In honor of the contributions that genealogists have and will make to scientist’s understanding of the genetic basis of disease, and in honor of the many unique and well-written genealogy blogs, I created The Genealogists, a Feedburner network (subscribe via RSS here). The network, which helps unite genealogy bloggers and introduce new blogs to readers, currently has 18 members:
A few days ago I wrote about John Reid’s “Where Has Your DNA Been” post at Anglo-Connections a few days ago. This is similar to another meme which has been circulating the genealogy blogosphere for a few weeks now, including “Where was your family in 1908?” at 100 Years in America and “Where was your family 200 years ago?” at What’s Past is Prologue. Steve at Steve’s Genealogy Blog has also given the ‘Map Your DNA’ meme a try. I thought it was a fun idea, and had a number of potentially interesting applications, if I were a programmer and if I had any free time. Absent that, I thought I would at least try to replicate John’s idea by mapping my location in 2008 versus the locations of my Y-DNA and mtDNA in 1808, 200 years ago.