How much do you know about genetic genealogy testing? Take The Genetic Genealogist’s quiz!
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How much do you know about genetic genealogy testing? Take The Genetic Genealogist’s quiz!
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.
The 2010 census is only 2 years away. Here is the planned schedule for the 2010 census:
- March 2010 – Census questionnaires are mailed or delivered to households.
- April – June 2010 – Census workers visit households that did not mail back a census questionnaire.
- December 31, 2010 – U.S. population totals are due to the President.
On Thursday, it was announced that the government will not use handheld computers to collect information from Americans who fail to return their census forms (HT: GeneaSofts). Instead, census takers will use traditional pen and paper forms. It is estimated that this will increase the cost of the entire census to over $14 billion. That’s almost $47 per person!
Interestingly, however, the Census Bureau will still use GPS-enabled handheld computers to verify household locations in 2009, according to testimony from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez on April 3rd. Wouldn’t it be great to have GPS coordinates associated with each census return?
Here is more information:
- CNN – Back to Pencil and Paper for 2010 Census, Fancy Computers Spell Trouble for 2010 Census.
- Salon.com – The 2010 Census Scraps Handhelds for Pen and Paper.
- Government Executive.com – On the Brink (a little sensationalist!!).
- And finally, the Statement of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez Before the United States House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science Thursday, April 3, 2008 (pdf).
Genealogy law lesson of the day:
Why are census records held for 72 years (other than the obvious public policy reasons)? Because of 36 C.F.R. Â§1256.4 (a)(3), which states the following:
“NARA will not grant access to restricted census and survey records of the Bureau of the Census less than 72 years old containing data identifying individuals enumerated in population censuses in accordance with 44 U.S.C. 2108(b).”
44 U.S.C. 2108(b) simply states that agreements between the Census Bureau and the National Archives, such as the 72-year agreement, become law. As to why it is 72 years and not 10 or 100 years, supposedly 72 was chosen because it was the average lifespan of Americans when the agreement was made.
An article entitled “Gene Test Kits – Can They Lead To Dating Services” by Annalee Newitz discusses the author’s thoughts on the implications of genome sequencing offered by the number of companies that have sprung up in the past year. As a genetic genealogist who is interested in the intersection of law, science, and ethics, I’m always interested in articles that examine the ethical issues associated with affordable genome sequencing. Unfortunately, this article turned out to have little substance behind some serious accusations.
Newitz begins by mentioning companies 23andMe and deCODEme, both of which recently launched genome scanning services. She then proceeds to her thesis, which is that these services are not only not useful, they are dangerous. She states:
“While there are many theories about how genetic expression works on our personalities and health, there are few solid facts. Some tests, such as those for various kinds of developmental disabilities, have provable results. But many genetic tests, like those 23andme claim can reveal ‘athletic ability,’ are the biotech version of snake oil.”
Snake oil was used by the author to describe this product as having exaggerated marketing but questionable quality. If you do a search for ’23andMe and “athletic ability”‘, the second link is 23andMe’s “Variations: Speed Gene: Fact or Fiction?” which examines the proposed link between the ACTN3 gene and athletic ability. The mini-report cites the scientific study (Lucia et al. (2007). “Citius and longius (faster and longer) with no alpha-actinin-3 in skeletal muscles?” Br J Sports Med. 41(9): 616-7) behind the link and concludes in part with:
“The fact that this long jumper is the first and so far only Olympic power athlete to be found who lacks the “gene for speed” is evidence for how important this gene is in determining this type of athletic ability. But his success is a testament to the fact that genes are not destiny.”
The question of ‘exaggerated marketing’ or ‘questionable quality’ are debatable, as we’ve certainly seen in the blogosphere in the past year, so I won’t get into any further analysis other to say that these companies, much like genetic genealogy companies, apply the results of scientific studies to the customer’s DNA and are not simply making up the information. It’s important to remember that the people taking these tests are pioneers; they are amply warned that the results are not a diagnosis and shouldn’t be used to make any important life decisions. The average price of these tests, $1,000 to $2,500, also suggests that people will not buy them on a whim.
My biggest concern comes from Newitz’s suggestion that genome scanning will lead to selective breeding (although she uses the term ‘eugenics’):
“But I don’t think it is just a little fun, like chocolate or “find the inner you” classes are. What I see when I look at a site like 23andme is nothing less than the future of eugenics. I don’t mean the scary capital E eugenics of the 1930s that involved killing Jews and sterilizing “loose women.” I mean wild-type eugenics, the kind of genetic engineering that happens in nature without any dictatorial intervention.”
I would argue that customers are using genomic services as a science and for their own enlightenment. For instance, just head over to the GENEALOGY-DNA archives and see all the discussion and analysis of the results of these products in the past 4 months. Genetic genealogists, most of whom are not phd-trained scientists (i.e. the masses), are already beginning to analyze the results of genomic sequencing for SNPs that might be associated with particular haplotypes, and thus reveal information about genetic genealogy. Although this represents just a fraction of the people who have been tested or are interested in testing, it suggests that people are interested in genome scanning as a scientific pursuit to learn more about themselves.
Newitz has an incredible resume (see Wikipedia), but after reading the article I was disappointed by her interpretation of the services offered by genome scanning companies. Although embracing very valid concerns about the cheap availability of genetic information, Newitz turned to sensationalism instead of an insightful discussion of the concerns. It’s possible that she chose to be a little controversial for the purpose of interesting journalism, but I feel like the sensationalism took away any value from the discussion. I’m certainly not discounting any of Ms. Newitz’s concerns, I just wish the article had shared more information in order to produce more informed readers.
This post isn’t exactly about genetic genealogy. Rather, it is about what I can learn from my visitors in order to make The Genetic Genealogist a better place to visit. By analyzing statistics at the end of each month, I hope to continue to refine the direction of the blog to create and present the best content possible. Here are a few of the things I learned from my visitors this month:
The Top Ten Most Visited Posts:
- The Family Tree of Blue Eyed Individuals
- Where Was My Y-DNA and mtDNA in 1808?
- Family Tree DNA Launches DNATraints, A New DNA Testing Company
- 23andMe Revisited
- African American Lives 2 (February 2008)
- African American Lives 2 (A preview from April 2007)
- Buick And Ancestry DNA Team Up For a DNA Contest
- Genetic Genealogy is SO Mainstream – More Black History Month Events
- Famous DNA Review Part III – Niall of the Nine Hostages
- The First Personal Genomic Sequencing Test Offered for $985
What did I learn from this list? Well, here are a few interesting facts about these posts:
- Only 5 of the top 10 articles were actually written in February 2008! This tells me that previously-written content is important, and that I should consider reviewing and updating popular older posts.
- Four of the top 10 articles were about genetic genealogy and Black History Month. In addition to older content, new content about current topics (such as Black History Month) is equally as important.
- The first two posts were popular among StumbleUpon readers. I’m not surprised by the first article, as it has obvious popular appeal – but I was surprised by the second article. You can never be sure what posts will be picked up and popularized by social media.
Top 15 Keywords in February 2008:
What can I learn from the keywords used by readers to find my blog?
- african american lives 2
- dna articles
- genetic genealogy
- articles on dna
- genetic genealogist
- sorenson genomics
- buick ancestry
- famous dna
- genetic genealogy blog
- genealogy test
- megan smolenyak
Analytics allows me to track other information about these keywords, including (1) how many pages were viewed by people who came to the site via a particular keyword; and (2) the bounce rate of visitors who came via a keyword. Bounce rate is the percentage of people who exit a site from the first page they visit. So, for instance, for my first keyword “african american lives 2″, the average pages read was 2.4, and the bounce rate was 59% (which are both right around my average). What did I learn from my keywords?
- Again, timely searches are important, as keywords #1, #9, #10, and #12 are all associated with Black History Month or the February launch of a new company (DNATraits).
- Not surprisingly, TGG is not what people are looking for when they search “genealogy test”, as the page rate was 1 and the bounce rate was 93%. Nothing too surprising there, as I do not sell genealogy tests at TGG.
- Very surprisingly, the keyword “genetic genealogy blog” had a page rate of 1.1 and a bounce rate of 87%! What are you people looking for? This is one of the only genetic genealogy blogs on the planet! This is a very interesting result that requires further analysis – do I make it clear ‘above the fold’ that this blog is about genetic genealogy? In sharp contrast, the term “genetic genealogist” had a very high page rate at 3.3, and a very low bounce rate at 46%.
- The highest page rate (3.6) and lowest bounce rate (29%) belonged to the keyword “buick ancestry” from Buick And Ancestry DNA Team Up For a DNA Contest.
Thanks to Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and her team at Roots Television, I am able to offer an assortment of incredibly interesting videos about DNA and DNA testing here at The Genetic Genealogist! If you click on the link here you’ll be taken to the new page with the permanent video player (with more videos being added all the time!). This new feature will be readily available to everyone at any time by clicking on the link in the header labeled “Roots Television – The DNA Channel”.
Right now there are videos about three different genetic genealogy success stories. Unfortunately, genetic genealogy has received a bit of bad press lately, and many people are unaware that the tool has been used by hundreds (if not thousands) of people to examine and answer important genealogical questions. As I’ve said many times, genetic genealogy goes best when it goes hand-in-hand with traditional genealogical research.
So, stop by and watch these very interesting stories!
(and if you have any trouble viewing the videos, please let me know)
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.
First, my Y-DNA. The blue dot on the following map of New York State is the location of my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather in 1808, and the yellow dot is me in 2008. The two dots are only 11 miles apart!! So, my Y-DNA has traveled at an average speed of just 0.05 miles per year! My Y-DNA appears to be a little lazy.
Next, my mtDNA. The blue dot on the Cayman Islands is the location of my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother in 1808, and the yellow dot is me in 2008. The distance between the two locations is 1664 miles, for a average traveling speed of 8.3 miles per year! Now that’s more like it!
Where was YOUR mtDNA and Y-DNA in 1808?
A potentially very useful new tool for mitochondrial DNA sequences has just launched. The mitoWheel, announced today on Attila CsordÃ¡s’ blog “Pimm – Partial immortalization” is a web-based graphical interface to visualize mtDNA. Attila is actually a member of the developing team for this project. According to the mitoWheel website:
“The mitoWheel is a graphical representation of the human mitochondrial genome. Use the left and right arrows to start browsing the sequence. You can also search for a nucleotide position, a gene, or a sequence motif by clicking in the search field, typing a term and pressing ENTER. Be sure to return soon for updates introducing further tools.”
As you can see, the CRS sequence is listed along the front of the interface, and is scrollable:
While I was exploring the new tool, I thought of a few (genetic genealogy-related) features that I would love to see:
- Ability to upload an entire sequence or list of mutations to be translated into your own personal graphical representation (with changes from the CRS highlighted, maybe even with annotated information about those mutations);
- Ability to compare to sequences side-by-side (your sequence v. the CRS, or your sequence v. your 4th cousins’, for example).
This is a very interesting tool, and hopefully will be updated with new features, so stay tuned.
Jasia of Creative Gene! Jasia’s winning entry was from a post she wrote about the contest. If Jasia accepts the prize, she will discuss her testing experience or her results either on her blog or here at The Genetic Genealogist, which should be a lot of fun and will help genetic genealogy newbies gain some insight into testing. Congratulations Jasia!
If Jasia doesn’t claim the prize, or decides she doesn’t want it, the runner-up for this contest is Yann of Yann Klimentidis’ Weblog.
Thank you to everyone who wrote about the contest on their blog, subscribed to my feed, subscribed to my mailing list, or left a comment at the original post. Overall, 34 people entered the contest with a total of 117 entries! I met some new readers and read some fantastic posts about the blog. At the end of this post is a list of all the blogs that mentioned the contest.
I wish I could afford tests for everyone that entered! However, don’t be too discouraged that you didn’t win, as I will be doing this contest again in the very near future!!!
I would like to extend a huge thank you to DNA Heritage, who sponsored this contest.
Here is a shot of the randomizer results:
Before obtaining the random numbers, I randomized the Excel spreadsheet. Going back to the list armed with the winning numbers, I found the winner (surrounding names removed for privacy):
And the runner-up, who happened to be the last entry on the list:
Thank you again to everyone that entered, and to the following list of blogs that mentioned the contest:
- Becky at kinexxions
- Lori at Smoky Mountain Family Historian
- Matt at Contest Beat
- Corey at Perusing Aardvarks
- Jessica at Jessica’s Genejournal
- Randy at Genea-Musings
- Lee at The I Seek Dead People Blog
- Jasia at Creative Gene
- Rhonda at Rhonda’s Ponderings and Aussie Rhonda’s Genealogy
- Lisa at 100 Years in America, Small-leaved Shamrock, and A Light That Shines Again
- Yann at Yann Klimentidis’ Weblog
- Terry at Desktop Genealogist
- Jean-Yves at Geneasofts
This is just a last reminder that my contest to give away a free genetic genealogy test ends tonight at 11:59PM (EST). The contest rules are here. Don’t forget that you can enter multiples times by:
- Leaving a comment on the original contest post (here), or;
- Write a short review of the blog or the contest with a link to http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com using the anchor text â€œgenetic genealogyâ€ and then leave a comment here with a link to the review, or;
- Subscribe to my feed and then email me (blaine_5 at hotmail.com) your name and the secret password found in the feed, or;
- Subscribe to my blog by email using the form in the far right sidebar.
I will announce the winner and the runner-up tomorrow, along with a list of every blog review or blogger that commented! I would like to thank everyone who has already written a review, subscribed to my blog, or left a comment. This contest has been a lot of fun, and I look forward to learning more about the winner’s experience with genetic genealogy. Good luck!