An article appears in today’s Asheville Citizen-Times (here) about genetic genealogy. Although brief, the article summarizes the sciences behind Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, and focuses on the use of genetic genealogy to explore the “Clark” surname.
With the famous Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemmings case, folks began to realize that DNA testing techniques could give answers and break down brick walls as never before.Â While DNA will never replace standard research and primary documentation, it can be considered a tool to be used hand in hand with standard research.
I highly respect the work of these authors, and I appreciate their efforts to educate the public about these issues. I do, however, wonder why the article was published in Science. The article mostly rehashes arguments found in a number of other articles (including from a very similar 2007 Science article (link) with some of the same authors) without adding any new research or supporting evidence. This is my greatest criticism of this and related articles – much of the hypothesis rests on anecdotal evidence without any corresponding research for support (such as objective social research with genetic ancestry testing customers).
Global in scope, Faces of America will look beyond the black experience to explore American identity with guests who are Asian, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Syrian, West Indian, and Native American. Joining Professor Gates in this new series are poet Elizabeth Alexander, who composed and read the poem at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, chef Mario Batali, comedian and television personality Stephen Colbert, writer Junot Diaz, writer Louise Erdrich, writer Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, cellist Yo Yo Ma, writer and director Mike Nichols, former monarch of Jordan Queen Noor, actress Meryl Streep, and Olympic gold medalist and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
Ancestry.com DNA offers a Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroup predictor – the Ancient Ancestry Finder – based primarily on location of your most distant known paternal or maternal ancestor. From the site:
To give everyone a sampling of these results, with Finder™ we’ve built a simple experience that takes a best guess at describing your ancient ancestors. You answer 2 or 3 questions with the most basic info about your family (facts almost everyone knows). And then we provide a few options for likely ancient ancestral groups, along with descriptions of those groups…The spirit of Finder™ is a bit different from what you may have experienced on our site. It’s part of our effort to introduce ancestry and genealogy to a wider audience.
This is a little off-topic for The Genetic Genealogist, but I thought I would share this paper which I wrote for a Genetics & Ethics class this spring. The paper examines all the biological and behavioral limitations on the ability of humans to create so-called “designer babies” solely from selecting embryos before in vitro fertilization. Although many are worried about the impact of being able to choose which embryo to implant, the paper argues that the impact is significantly limited by a number of factors.
Note that this paper does NOT factor in the potential for creating designer babies by changing an embryo’s DNA; that’s a whole different can of worms!
The mtDNA of Otzi, the Iceman discovered in the Alps, was recently re-analyzed. The results suggest that the previous mtDNA sequence was contaminated by a modern mtDNA source, and that the mtDNA belongs to a previously unidentified subclade of Haplogroup K1. For more information, see Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog.
TruGenetics is a genomics company offering at least 10,000 free SNP scans to those who register at their website. Unlike most other personal genomics companies, TruGenetics users complete a survey to create a “personalized risk assessment survey.” Not surprisingly, the tests are currently not available to New York residents:
New York residents: We are currently working with your state authorities to receive permission to operate in New York. We cannot take your information at this time.
There is much more information at genomeboy.com and Genetic Future, including insight into TruGenetic’s business model. If you are considering this service, be sure to read and completely understand all the terms & conditions, as well as ALL potential outcomes. You can also follow twitterer “achamedian” to learn more.
One interesting quote from the article: “Of the half a million Americans who have purchased DNA tests, around 35,000 of them are African American.” Interesting article, although I at a complete loss for where the “35,000” number was obtained.
The article also includes some criticism from Deborah Bolnick of African Ancestry‘s interpretation of their genetic genealogy tests.
This is a video of a recent episode of Charlie Rose regarding personal genomics. The show includes prominent members of the field, including George Church, Linda Avey, Anne Wojcicki, and Steven Pinker, among others.
An article in the United Arab Emirate newspaper The National (wikipedia) does a terrific job of highlighting recent research from Family Tree DNA.Â The story – â€œDNA could illuminate Islamâ€™s lineageâ€ â€“ discusses research that has attempted to elucidate the Y-DNA signature of Mohammed.Â Although Mohammed did not have a son, he had a daughter who married her paternal second cousin, thus passing to Mohammedâ€™s grandchildren the same Y-DNA.Â From the article:
â€œFor almost 1,600 years, the title Sharif, Sayyed, or Habib has been bestowed on Muslims who have been able to trace their roots back to the Prophet Mohammed through intricate family trees, oral histories and genealogical records. But now an American DNA lab says it may have identified the DNA signature of descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, and perhaps the prospect of a direct, more accurate means of confirming or identifying such a connection.â€