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More On Revealing Surnames Using Genetic Genealogy

DNA

Image by gravitywave via Flickr

Last week I wrote about using genetic genealogy databases to identify someone’s surname (see “DNA Could Reveal Your Surname, Of Course.”)  The article discussed results from researcher Dr. Turi King which suggested that there is a 24% to 50% chance that two men who share the same surname share a common ancestor through that name, with chances increasing if the surname is rare.

Somehow I completely missed “Adoptees use DNA to find surname“, an article at BBC News this June.  Men who were adopted as children are using genetic genealogy databases in an attempt to identify their biological surname.  This is Dr. King’s research in motion.  Family Tree DNA, for example, has a project for Adopted people that is over 2 years old, and has a success rate of more than 30%, thanks in large part to their database of over 130,000 records.  From Bennett Greenspan:

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DNA Could Reveal Your Surname, Of Course

allelic length variation among 6 individuals

Image via Wikipedia

New research from Mark Jobling’s lab at the University of Leicester suggests that Y-DNA can be used to determine a male’s surname.

I know, I know, this is obvious to anyone who is familiar with genetic genealogy.  Just check out the many instances of this type of determination at ISOGG’s Success Stories website, for example.  However, as you’ll see below, this research has resulted in some new and interesting information.

Method

Dr. Turi King, who conducted the research, recruited over 2,500 men with roughly 500 different surnames to submit Y-DNA samples.  The sample set included a group not sharing surnames as well as sets of men (between 2 and 180) who shared a surname (including recognized variants).  She then typed 9 SNPs and 17 STRs.  There’s much more information about this research at the Jobling lab’s website regarding this project.

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Article Review: “Bio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestry”

I just finished reading an article by Alondra Nelson in the journal Social Studies of Science entitled “Bio Science: Genetic Genealogy Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestry” (Social Studies of Science 2008 38: 759-783).  Dr. Nelson is Assistant Professor of Sociology, African American Studies and American Studies at Yale University.

This very interesting and insightful article aligns with my own premise, which I’ve stated previously, that receiving the results of a genetic genealogy test is only the beginning of the journey for any individual interested in their own identity or genealogy.

Based on her research in this area, Dr. Nelson writes about the complex interpretation of the results of genetic genealogy testing by African-Americans and black British.  Rather than completely altering their preconceived biographical narratives based on the results of testing, many people struggle to mesh genetic results with these narratives.  From the abstract:

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Personal Genome Project Begins Releasing Information

image The Personal Genome Project (PGP) was established to analyze and publicly share the genomes and personal information of up to 100,000 volunteers in order to advance understanding of “genetic and environmental contributions to human traits and to improve our ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness.”  In the first phase of the PGP, ten volunteers (the “First 10″ – see information about the First 10 here on my blog and at the PGP website) have had their DNA analyzed and have given their personal information.

Last month, George Church, the PGP’s principal investigator, reported that the project expected to publish data about the First 10 on its website in mid- to late October.  Church might have meant genotype (i.e. sequencing) information, since some information about phenotype, health history, and medication has already been posted on the PGP website.  There is information about each of the 10 participants, although there is currently no active link to their genetic information:

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Complete Genomics Will Sequence Your Entire Genome for $5,000 Starting in 2009

Andrew Pollack at the New York Times wrote an article published today entitled “Dawn of Low-Price Mapping Could Broaden DNA Uses.”  The article is about a start-up company called Complete Genomics which will begin sequencing customer’s genomes for $5,000 starting in the second quarter of 2009.  From the article:

“Complete Genomics will not begin its service until the second quarter of next year. By then, the cost of competing technologies will no doubt have fallen further. Just last week, Applied Biosystems, a leading manufacturer, said it expected that its newest machine would allow a human genome to be sequenced for $10,000, although that includes only the cost of consumable materials, not labor or the machinery.”

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RootsTelevision Turns Two

Yesterday, RootsTelevision.com celebrated its two-year birthday.  RootsTelevision was created by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Marcy Brown in 2006, and currently contains programs in 25 different channels!  You can read more about the site and about its creation at Megan’s Roots World.

You might remember that a few weeks ago I was interviewed by Dick Eastman for RootsTelevision.com, which was a terrific experience.  And don’t forget, you can stay up-to-date on RootsTelevision.com’s DNA Channel right here at The Genetic Genealogist!

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Identifying an Unknown Parent Using Genetic Genealogy

iStock_000007020771XSmall Last week, Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings posed a genetic genealogy question on his blog.  I posted a possible solution in the comments there, but I am asked this question regularly and thought I would discuss it here.

At a recent meeting that Randy attended, a woman in the audience asked the speaker:

“I don’t know who my father is. He and my mother had relations in Naples, Italy back in the 1950’s and I was born. I have no siblings. My mother did not tell me his name and there is no father’s name on my birth certificate. Can DNA research help me?”

This particular situation is exceptionally challenging.  If the child had been a boy, he would have his father’s Y-DNA and a decent chance at identifying his father’s surname (and thus could perhaps further elucidate his actual identity with the combination of DNA research and traditional genealogical research).  If the unknown parent had been the mother, the daughter would possess the unknown parent’s mtDNA and a remote but possible chance of finding an mtDNA match and using traditional genealogical techniques to identify the mother.

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Abstracts From the ASHG 2008 Meeting

image The American Society of Human Genetics is having its 58th Annual Meeting in November.  As I was looking through the meeting abstracts, I noticed that there were a number of abstracts that dealt with topics related to genetic genealogy.  I thought some of you would be interested in getting an advance look at genetic genealogy research that will be publicly released and published over the next year or two.  Although I didn’t include the whole abstracts for most of them, I did include a link for further investigation.  (Note: I got this idea from Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog).

Interestingly, the first five abstracts all include researchers from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, showing how much the Foundation is providing to the genetic genealogy community.

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The $1,000 Genome by the End of 2009?

On December 30th, 2007, I blogged the following:

“[A]ffordable whole-genome sequencing is getting closer and closer every day (my prediction – which is based solely on my own educated guess – is that I will be able to sequence my entire genome for $1,000 or less by the end of 2009).”

It was pretty bold at the time, and I’ve since wondered if I was too optimistic, but now comes news that at least one other person agrees with my prediction.  Harvard professor and genetics researcher George Church – also principal investigator for the Personal Genome Project (PGP) – stated at two conferences, one last week and one this week, that by mid-October of 2008, 36-fold coverage of the human genome will be available for $5,000.  Church went on to say that the $1,000 human genome will be available by the end of 2009.

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Ancestral GPS – Pinpointing the Geographic Origin of Autosomal DNA Sequences

image I’ve been meaning to write about recent two papers, one in Current Biology and one in Nature, that attempt to identify and characterize a relationship between genetic sequence or SNP and geography.  Amazingly, both papers found a very strong correlation between genetics and geography.

From a news article regarding the paper in Nature (note that I haven’t verified that the paper supports the statement; HT: Yann Klimentidis’ Weblog):

"The map was so accurate that when Novembre’s team placed a geopolitical map over their genetic "map", half of the genomes landed within 310 kilometres of their country of origin, while 90% fell within 700 km."

Although there are some caveats, for example in one of the papers all of an individual’s grandparents had to have similar geographic origins in order for the method to identify ancestry, these types of studies will continue to discover and refine the methods and findings.  As Kambiz stated at Anthropology.net, "With higher resolution GeneChips, ideally full genomes, and larger samples, we’ll be able see much more accurate genetic-geographic separations of populations."

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