Megan Smolenyak has been very busy the past couple of weeks sharing her research of Michelle Obama’s genealogy. Genealogy Insider posted this video of Megan on the CBS Early Show on October 8th. The YouTube video is described as: “The New York Times traced Michelle Obama’s five generation path from slavery to the White House. Harry Smith spoke to Megan Smoleyak the genealogist who uncovered the first lady’s family tree.”
ISOGG, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, has a â€œSuccess Storiesâ€ page where it posts short summaries of just a few the many successes that genetic genealogy has helped people achieve.Â Today I noticed that there are several new summaries regarding â€œAutosomal DNA Successes,â€ both of which were the result of 23andMeâ€™s new Relative Finder (currently still in beta testing).
As I recently wrote, Relative Finder is a feature at 23andMe that allows users to compare their autosomal DNA to the autosomal DNA of others to potentially find cousins.Â This has long been done with Y-DNA and mtDNA, but this is one of the first times this has been done with autosomal DNA.
Success Story #1
The first success story is from someone who used Relative Finder to identify a huge number of potential cousins.Â After connecting one of his or her potential 4th cousins, the individuals discovered that they have similar surnames from a certain location in common (in addition to DNA on chromosomes 3 and 10).Â This individual also wisely noted that s/he now has â€œa good idea of the path that two of my DNA segments took through my pedigree to get to me.”Â This is something I wrote about recently in â€œThe Future of Genetic Genealogy â€“ Tracing DNA To Individual Ancestors.â€
In the May 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine, the editors will name the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs.Â Last month many of my readers nominated this blog for the list, which I appreciate greatly!
As of today you can vote to narrow down the top 130 nominated blogs to about 80 blogs, which the editors will then reduce to 40.Â The blogs have been placed into 10 different categories.Â There is more information about the categories and blogs here.
If you have a moment, please feel free to vote for The Genetic Genealogist in the genetic genealogy category!Â Voting takes place from October 5th through November 5th, and you can vote as often as you like.Â Thank you!
23andMe has been beta testing a new tool for comparing autosomal DNA results called â€œRelative Finder.â€ Although I was not one of the beta testers, it seems that this new tool will be of great use to genealogists. Roberta Estes has posted a nice summary of the Relative Finder tool at the â€œSearching for the Lost Colony DNA Blog.â€
90% of Customers Likely to Find a Match!
Relative Finder compares your autosomal SNP results to the results of others in the 23andMe database to determine matches. While developing the tool, 23andMe discovered that in their dataset of â€œmore than 5000 individuals with European ancestry,â€ 90% of individuals had at least one distant relative between 2nd and 8th degree cousins!
Last week my Google alert for “genetic genealogy” went crazy, and it took me a few days to realize that Ancestry Magazine recently made all their archives available for free online.Â Although I’m not sure how far back their archives go, there appears to be hundreds of genealogy articles on the site.
A quick search of “DNA” at the site, for instance, reveals MANY articles relating to genetic ancestry testing. This is a great resource for anyone interested in genetic genealogy.
I see that Schelly at Tracing the Tribe had the same Google alerts frenzy last week. As she notes, some of the articles are rather old, so be sure to check the dates before you read them; the information might require some updating!
I once told someone that in addition to learning about their ancient origins (such as Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups), many genetic genealogists would ideally like to match every portion of their DNA with the contributing ancestor.Â Although this might seem to be beyond the reach of current genetic ancestry testing, it has actually already begun.Â The family compare function of 23andMe, for example, is already being used by genetic genealogists for just this purpose; people who have matching DNA segments can compare ancestry and attempt to identify the ancestor who might have contributed the DNA.
For obvious reasons, medical geneticists have for many years been using genealogy to trace founder mutations in populations.Â For example, in 2008 scientists traced a colon cancer gene in the United States to a Mr. and Mrs. George Fry who arrived in the New World around 1630 (see A Single Colon Cancer Gene Traced to 1630).
From a story in today’s Mormon Times:
The first rumblings about DNA and the Book of Mormon came about 10 years ago, according to Perego, a senior researcher at Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.Critics cobbled together data from a variety of early DNA studies and came to the unsurprising conclusion that the studies indicated an Asian origin for Native Americans.
This, the critics argued, proved that the Book of Mormon was false. They claimed that the book says the continent was empty and if it was empty, then all Native Americans should have Lehi’s Israelite DNA, not Asian DNA.
Ugo Perego, well-known in genetic genealogy circles, talks with the journalist about the compatibility of our current understanding of Native American origins and the Book of Mormon.Â According to Perego, there are possibilities solutions to this apparent conundrum:
In the past week there have been so many articles and posts about either genetic genealogy or DTC genetics that Iâ€™m writing them up as a summary post rather than individually.
The New York Times Tackles DTC Genetic Testing
An article in yesterdayâ€™s New York Times by Jane E. Brody â€“ â€œBuyer Beware of Home DNA Testsâ€ â€“ argues that DTC genetic testing is fraught with danger (the article and some of Brody’s arguments are summarized by Grace Ibay of Genetics & Health: â€œSeven Reasons Why Home DNA Tests Are Hypeâ€).Â The author even lumps in genetic genealogy (which has been around for over 9 years now, hardly a â€œnew industryâ€ that has sprung up â€œto cash inâ€ on new science):
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a searchable database created from the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, which contains the name and social security number of deceased persons reported to the Social Security Administration since roughly 1962.Â In addition to being used by genealogists, the Death Master File and SSDI are used by financial firms and government agencies for various reasons such as preventing identity fraud.
A Genealogy Meme Using the SSDI
Michael Neill at RootDig has two posts â€“ â€œHave You Searched for All Your Ancestors in the SSDI?â€ and â€œMy in-laws in the SSDIâ€ â€“ that list his and his wifeâ€™s ancestors in the SSDI.Â Michael has 7 ancestors, while his wife has 6.
Trends in Genetics has an article by Turi E. King and Mark A. Jobling from the University of Leicester highlighting Y-DNA genetic genealogy.Â Specifically, the article – â€œWhatâ€™s in a name? Y chromosomes, surnames and the genetic genealogy revolutionâ€ â€“ looks at the relationship between surnames and Y-DNA genetics.Â Dr. King and Dr. Jobling have previously conducted a great deal of research in this area (see here and here, for example).
The article is a review of this area and contains some interesting information, including a section regarding â€œGenetic genealogy and the rise of recreational genetics.â€
Genetic genealogists recognized as making genuine contributions to the field:
In the article, the authors note that genetic genealogists are making discoveries in this field: