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23andMe Partners with Illumina – To Offer Genetic Genealogy?


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23andMe has been the subject of much discussion in the biotech and personalized medicine circles of the blogosphere (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for plenty of information/speculation/discussion).

In August, 23andMe announced (“23andMe and Illumina Forge Consumer Genomics Goliath”) that they have partnered together to offer “consumer genotyping” – more about that in a minute. Illumina produces “SNP chips”, chips that can test a genome for thousands of SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) at a time. For example, the company has one chip that tests one million SNPs for as little as $600, and another chip that tests 550,000 SNPs (the HumanHap550) for only $300-$450. Interestingly, Illumina is also able to custom build chips to add specific SNPs if the customer so desires. Additionally, as the announcement … Click to read more!

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DNA From the Dead: DNA Banking is Legal, but is it Ethical? Part II


Yesterday we saw that many funeral directors offer DNA retrieval and storage as one of their services. Today, we’ll look into the WHY of DNA storage, and bring up some of the ethical questions it raises.

Why store DNA from the recently deceased?

Undoubtedly, someone who has never heard of DNA retrieval and storage will probably ask WHY we should store a dead relative’s DNA.

The reason most commonly quoted is that the DNA can be used in the future to identify inherited traits such as genetic disorders and other phenotypic characteristics. In 2006, the New England Historic Genealogical Society published an article by Edwin M. Knights, M.D. entitled “DNA Banking for Medical Information.” In the article, Dr. Knights gives a number of reasons for banking DNA from both living … Click to read more!

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DNA From the Dead: DNA Banking is Legal, but is it Ethical? Part I

The field of genomics is exploding.Every day, the mysteries of our genome are revealed and we learn more and more about the power of DNA.Soon, with affordable whole-genome sequencing, we will be able to analyze our own personal genome for clues about our ancestry, our propensity for disease, and insight into our body and our personality.In fact, this is already well underway.

Undoubtedly, each of us will be faced with a decision in our lifetime – do we want to learn the secrets of our genome, or do we want to live without that knowledge, as all of our ancestors have done for millions of years.This decision is a personal one, and at this point I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer.

But what about those who are unable to make that decision?For example, an infant is unable to give consent for genetic testing, but many states in the USroutinely … Click to read more!

1

DNA IS a Big Deal


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Last Thursday, Michael Neill, a noted genealogist and author of rootdig.com, posted an article entitled “Is DNA That Big of a Deal?”
Mr. Neill, who states that he is “tired of all they hype” writes:
“While I admit there are times where DNA analysis can be helpful, in the vast majority of cases DNA does not provide the type of relationship precision we need. Knowing that two people are related “somehow” “somewhere” “an unknown number of generations back” is typically not the kind of information genealogists need.”
He also believes that instead of spending money and effort on genetic genealogy, researchers should be digitizing and preserving records.
I agree with much of what Mr. Neill says – DNA doesn’t always work, DNA isn’t … Click to read more!

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A Lonely Surname

I have a very lonely surname according to estimates, there are only about 1000 to 2000 Bettingers in the United States. In the 1930 census, the most recent census which is indexed and available to genealogists, there were just 1,300 Bettingers. Therefore, not surprisingly, I was the first Bettinger to experiment with genetic genealogy and had the opportunity to start a Bettinger surname project, which I did. Sadly, however, my project still has just one member. I originally tried to email some potential relatives, but only a few seemed interested, and none decided to take the plunge.
My particular Y-DNA has an interesting story (I think that everyone’s Y-DNA has an interesting story, it’s just that I’ve decided to share mine!). My most distant … Click to read more!

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Genetic Genealogy and Non-Paternal Events


There is a certain occurrence in genetic genealogy called a Non-Paternal or Non Paternity Event. This is a break in the ancestry of a person’s Y chromosome and surname. A person named “Smith,” for instance, might have a Y chromosome that is clearly “Johnson.”
A non paternal event can occur when an adopted male takes the surname of his adoptive family, or a male child takes his step-father’s surname, or a male child takes his mother’s surname (undoubtedly there are other circumstances as well).
When a break in the Y chromosome is suspected or confirmed, it is possible that the break might have occurred 1,000 years ago, 100 years ago, or with the testee’s birth.
… Click to read more!

Big News for Both Genealogists and Archivists


FamilySearch (a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) announced today that it will provide FREE services to any and all archives and records custodians who wish to digitize, index, publish, and preserve their collections. This is, of course, on top of the ambitious project already underway to digitize and make freely available the 2 million rolls of microfilm stored in the Granite Mountain Records Vault.
This is a huge benefit for genealogists, since many more records will be freely available online. This is also a huge benefit for archivists and record depositories, since they can digitize and make available their collections for free using FamilySearch’s many years of scanning experience.
Thanks to … Click to read more!