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).
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.
As part of her doctoral research, Sudeepa Abeysinghe is asking people who have purchased genomic tests to complete the â€œUser Experiences of Direct-to-Consumer Genomic Testing Surveyâ€.Â According to Sudeepa, the survey focuses on the consumer experience and is completely independent of any testing company.
Although Iâ€™m late on reporting this (it was already covered by GenomeWeb, for example), I thought I would mention it in case anyone has missed the previous coverage and might be interested in completing the survey.
This is an opportunity for genetic genealogists to share their experiences and voice their thoughts regarding DTC genomic testing.
Barbara Ameer and Norberto Krivoy of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology (ACCP) have an article (pdf) in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology that promotes regulation of DTC genetic tests (which could conceivably include genetic genealogy tests).Â The Genomics Law Report analyzes the paperâ€™s arguments and concludes with the following:
â€œWithout convincing evidence of the harms of DTC genetic testing, it remains difficult to fully justify more rigorous governmental regulation, or to anticipate its content, structure or ultimate effect, which perhaps explains why such regulation continues to remain just over the horizon.â€
The standardized system was first published in the Fall 2008 issue (pdf) of the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG).
First, let me add a note of caution â€“ this change ONLY represents a change in how results are REPORTED.Â Even though companies report results differently, this does not mean that the actual DNA testing results are wrong or different!Â This shift is NOT to correct errors in testing results; it is only to standardize reporting.