I donâ€™t often post pure genealogy on this blog, but I thought I would take a break from genetic genealogy and join in on the Genea-Bloggers Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt, which was:Â â€œUpload your favorite picture and talk about it on your blog. Answer the who/what/when/where/why of the subject matter and explain why it is your favorite.â€
Although it is nearly impossible to pick a single favorite from my extensive photo collection, I chose the following photo as one of my favorites:
People (L to R): Frank Bettinger (my great-grandfather), Angeline Taylor Bettinger (my great-great-great-grandmother born in 1815!), Ward Bettinger (my great-great-uncle), Melissa Albro Bettinger (my great-great-grandmother), Edgar Bettinger (my great-great-grandfather), and George Bettinger (my first cousin three times removed).Â Unfortunately, I never met anyone in this photo, although Iâ€™ve heard a great deal about them.
An international team of researchers have concluded that humans entered the Americas from Asia along at least two different paths.Â By studying two rare mtDNA haplogroups found in Native Americans â€“ D4h3 and X2a â€“ the researchers conclude that D4h3 spread into the Americans along the Pacific coast while X2a entered through the ice-free corridor between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets.
From the Press Release:Â â€œSix major genetic lineages account for 95 percent of Native American mtDNA and are distributed everywhere in the Americas,â€ said first author Ugo Perego, director of operations at SMGF. â€œSo we chose to analyze two rare genetic groups and eliminate that â€˜statistical background noise.â€™ In this way, we found patterns that correspond to two separate migration routes.â€
I recently wrote about using genetic genealogy to potentially identify a male’s unknown surname. Although I had in mind using DNA to find an adopted male’s biological surname, the method has numerous other applications. For instance, it can be used in an attempt to identify the surname of a male who has forgotten his biological surname.
A Mystery Man
Just before 7 a.m. on August 31, 2004, an adult male was found lying next to a dumpster behind a Burger King in Richmond Hill, Georgia. He was naked, beaten, sunburned, and covered in bites from fire ants. Benjaman Kyle, as he has decided to call himself (note the BK connection), eventually recovered from his physical ailments but was unable to remember anything about himself or his past. To this day, he cannot remember anything, although he claims to have vague memories or affiliations for certain things. For example, he appears to have some background knowledge of restaurant equipment and design. Surprisingly, he does not match any known missing person report, and no one has come forward with knowledge of his identity, despite considerable media coverage. For more background information about Benjaman Kyle, see “A Real Live Nobody” in SavannahNow.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!Â I hope everyone is enjoying a relaxing start to the new year.Â Thank you for reading TGG in 2008, and I hope you are as excited as I am about the developments in genetic genealogy that 2009 is sure to bring!
Here is a recap of some of the most recent news in genetic genealogy and personalized genomics in the end of 2008:
DNA results show no link to ancient human remains – About 230 Native people participated in study to find ShukÃ¡ Kaa descendants.Â Dr. Brian Kemp, who I interviewed back in 2007, is attempting to find maternal relatives of 10,300 year-old remains named ShukÃ¡ Kaa (Man Before Us) who is Haplogroup D.Â Native Americans are often reluctant to donate their DNA, and this collection represents a huge sampling of Native mtDNA.Â I hope the sequences will be shared.Â See more here and here.
I received the following press release today from SMGF:
SALT LAKE CITY (Dec. 30, 2008)â€”Genetic research by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) and scientists from ten organizations in Europe and the U.S. shows human groups with the deepest roots in southeastern Europe were not pushed out by an incoming wave of farmer-colonists as agriculture first spread into Europe. Instead, indigenous Europeans with a hunting and gathering lifestyle adopted agriculture when it was introduced by settlers from the Middle East. The study was published in the Dec. 24, 2008 online issue of European Journal of Human Genetics.
Scientists have long debated the question of how agriculture spread into Europe from its birthplace in the Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East. But the evidenceâ€”primarily archaeologicalâ€”is inconclusive.
Most genetic genealogists have sent away their cheek swabs to learn about their mitochondrial DNA or their Y-DNA lines. Others have explored their autosomal DNA for ancestral information, a field that is growing quickly and will undergo rapid changes as the price of sequencing continues to fall.
Now genetic genealogists are beginning to discover the ancestral information locked away in the X chromosome. Indeed, X chromosome tests have been offered by companies such as Family Tree DNA for a number of years. Armed with some of this information as well as the advent of SNP chip information from 23andMe and deCODEme, genetic genealogists are making new discoveries in this very young arena.
The Virginia Commonwealth University Life Science Center has released the results of the VCU Life Sciences Survey and I thought I’d share some of the interesting results.
The most surprising result of the survey is that 80% of surveyed adults favor making genetic testing â€œeasily available to all who want it,â€ similar to values in 2001 and 2004.Â Donâ€™t tell this to the New York and California Departments of Health!
The Benefits Outweigh the Risks
54% of adults believe that the benefits of genetic testing outweigh the risks, while 25% believe that the risks outweigh the benefits.Â Itâ€™s interesting to see the education breakdown of this question.Â 44% of people with a high school degree or less believe that benefits outweigh risks, compared to 67% of people with a college degree or more.Â And 29% of people with a high school degree or less believe that risks outweigh benefits, compared to 20% of those with a college degree or more.
I’m currently in the middle of third-year law school exams, so I thought I’d do a round-up of all the interesting stories I’ve seen over the past week or two.
Holiday Specials on DNA Testing
First, it appears that most of the major genetic genealogy companies are offering special deals for the holidays:
Family Tree DNA announces a holiday sale – FTDNA is offering reducing pricing for customers who are part of or join a DNA project. For example, a 37-marker Y-DNA test is reduced to $119, down from $149.
Ancestry.com announces holiday sale – buy a DNA test between now and December 31st, and you’ll receive 40% off. For example, a 33-marker Y-DNA test is $89.40 (usually $149) and their mtDNA test is $107.40 (usually $179).
A new article in Ancestry Magazine, “Meeting My New Family,” details a recent meeting of genetic relatives in Chicago.Â The author is Howard Wolinsky, who has written other articles in the field of genetic genealogy (see, for example, an article in EMBO about 2 years ago).Â As Howard describes, the meeting wasn’t a traditional family reunion:
“We are a new kind of cousin. Until a few days ago, we were strangers who just happened to have had our DNA analyzed. Then we discovered we matched one another to varying degrees. Most of us have common Jewish connections. And we learned that we come from relatively rare branches of the human DNA tree. Our mothersâ€™ mothers came from the HV branch. Our fathersâ€™ fathers came from the G group.”
Similar to a move made by myHeritage a few weeks ago, Familybuilder has announced that it will offer genetic genealogy testing to its customers.Â As part of the launch of this new product, Familybuilder is offering both Y-DNA and mtDNA tests for only $59.95 until January 1.Â After that, the price will be $89.95
Based on the demo account, it looks like the Y-DNA test includes 17 markers.Â Although this isn’t many markers, $3.52 per marker is a great price.
Familybuilder is planning to continue to develop their genetic genealogy offering: “Currently in development is the ability to create Groups around surnames, families, and other criteria as well as the ability to Compare DNA.”Â From the press release:
â€œUp to now, genealogical DNA testing for the masses has been cost-prohibitive,â€ said David Rheins, CMO of Familybuilder.Â â€œWe are excited about the launch of Familybuilder DNA, and believe that this tool will help millions of consumers better understand the origins of their heritage and ancestry. We are very focused on developing the Familybuilder DNA product line, and have plans to roll out additional tests and future functionality, including the ability to search our DNA database to identify living relatives with whom you share DNA.â€