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The Genetic Genealogy Market, Part II

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Yesterday, I looked at the size of the Genetic Genealogy market, and concluded that as of November 2007, there had been as many (or perhaps ‘at least’) 600,000 to 700,000 genetic genealogy tests performed, with 80,000 to 100,000 new tests per year. As the footnoteMaven mentioned, it might be interesting to see if we could turn those numbers into dollar amounts.

The following is a very rough attempt to translate the numbers into market value, with the following caveats: (1) I am not an economist, and I haven’t taken an economics class since high school; (2) the numbers do not take into account testing upgrades, which are offered by a number of companies; (3) the numbers do not take into account sequencing of the entire mitochondrial genome, specialized allele tests, or combination tests (e.g. Y-DNA and mtDNA) and; (4) the average cost of testing only reflects the companies included in yesterday’s accounting, and do not include the free SMGF test.

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How Big is the Genetic Genealogy Market?

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I was recently having a discussion with someone about the size of the genetic testing market, and I mentioned the number of people who had already paid for genetic genealogy testing. This oft-repeated number, 460,000, is the addition of two figures from a short 2006 EMBO article (“Genetic Genealogy Goes Global” EMBO 1072 (2006)):

  1. “Companies such as Oxford Ancestors, Family Tree DNA and DNAPrint Genomics have attracted more than 300,000 customers in the past six years.”
  2. “During the first 15 months of the five-year [Genographic] project, 160,000 people signed on, far more than had been anticipated.”

So, 300,000 + 160,000 = 460,000. A year later, however, these numbers are obsolete and I wanted to bring them as up-to-date as possible. To do this, I took the 2006 EMBO papers and scoured the internet for testing numbers revealed by any of the genetic genealogy testing firms. The results suggest that the current number is much higher than 460,000. My findings are below:

1.Oxford Ancestors, FTDNA, and DNAPrint Genomics = 300,000 up to November 2006. Although I am not certain of the accuracy of this number from the 2006 EMBO article, I decided to use it as a starting point.

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32

Carnival of Genealogy, 35th Edition

Welcome to the November 4, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.The topic for this edition was actually more of a question… Do you have a family mystery that might be solved by DNA?I offered to analyze a submitted post for questions or family mysteries that might be solved using genetic genealogy.There were a number of interesting and challenging articles, and everyone kept me very busy!If you’ve ever considered using DNA to analyze your ancestry, you’ll want to read all the way through this Carnival!

I wanted to start off with a post from the footnoteMaven entitled “Ask The Genetic Genealogist.”In the post, she refers to me as “Dr. DNA” – I could really get used to that!The footnoteMaven has a cousin on her father’s side who was recently diagnosed as having sickle cell trait.Sickle cell is caused by any one of a number of identified mutations of the hemoglobin gene on chromosome 11.Sickle cell trait means that the cousin has one good copy of the hemoglobin gene and one bad copy – one from each parent.Since this is autosomal DNA, the traditional tool of genetic genealogy, Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, won’t be of much help.There are a number of DNA testing companies that will sequence the hemoglobin gene to check for mutations, but testing your cousin’s siblings won’t reveal which parent had the mutated gene.It would be best to test the parents, but they have passed away.Unfortunately, answering your mystery would most likely be very expensive and time-consuming, at least at the current stage of technology.In 5 to 10 years, as whole genome sequencing becomes cheaper, it might be a much easier project.There are some autosomal genealogy tests which purport to reveal ancestral origins (such as Africa, Europe, Asia, etc..), but this would not reveal any information about the source of the mutated hemoglobin gene.

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If You Just Can’t Get Enough of The Genetic Genealogist…

I recently took a few moments to stitch together some of my favorite and most-visited posts from the blog into an easy to read eBook. It has a wide array of posts for anyone interested in DNA, including people who are new to genetic genealogy and those who have had experience in the field. The title is:

10 DNA Testing Myths Busted, and Other Favorite Posts

The eBook, which is in pdf form, can be downloaded from the following link. Feel free to put it on your website or email it to anyone you think might be interested. I think you’ll find that it’s full of interesting material!

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DNA Analysis of 5 People Who Helped Create America

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1. Benjamin Franklin – mtDNA Haplogroup V

In addition to being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin was a politician, printer, scientist, inventor, diplomat, and author.DNA testing has elucidated the origins of Benjamin Franklin’s mitochondrial DNA through his mother Abiah Lee Folger, who had six sisters. One of those sisters, Doras Folger, passed on her mtDNA to her 9th-great granddaughter, Charlene Chambers King. Sequencing of Ms. King’s mtDNA revealed that she belonged to mtDNA Haplogroup V with the following mutations: T16298C, 315.1C, 309.1C, A263G, and T72C.Haplogroup V (known as “Velda” by Sykes) is believed to have originated in Europe about 12,000 years ago, possibly in Iberia. About 4% of Europeans contain Haplogroup V mtDNa.So far, no known source of Benjamin Franklin’s Y-DNA or autosomal DNA has been discovered (although some believe that his tooth might provide the answer).

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Links From The Genetic Genealogist – October 31, 2007

In order to clean out posts I’ve been saving in Google Reader (does anyone else keep posts in Reader until you’ve blogged about them?), I decided to have a potpourri day. The following are links to interesting articles around the blogosphere. And Happy Halloween!

Pedro at Public Rambling has The Fortune Cookie Genome, a ‘science fiction’ post about picking up the results of his whole genome scan from his genetic advisor. Of course, it’s only science ‘fiction’ until it’s science ‘reality’!

The Women’s Bioethic Project has an article about DNA Testing Without Consent, which asks whether there should be a ‘reverse’ statute of limitations for testing DNA from famous dead people. The article was written in response to a recent story in Parade. I talked about this briefly back in August (see “DNA From the Dead“), and I’m working on a post about “Discarded DNA and the Constitution”, so stick around. HT: Eye on DNA.

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Navigenics and 23andMe From VentureBeat: Life Sciences

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David Hamilton at VentureBeat: Life Sciences recently wrote about the potential business plans of two popular genomic companies – Navigenics and 23andMe. It appears that the post was motivated by the recent article in Portfolio. David writes:

“Over the last few months, startups like 23andMe and Navigenics have attracted a fair bit of attention for promising to let ordinary people search through their own genomes to better understand their disease risk, genealogy and ancestry. One of the first major efforts to figure them out, however — courtesy of the November issue of Portfolio — left me with the distinct impression that these companies may not actually be anywhere near as revolutionary as they seem.”

There’s some discussion in the comment section, and David presents a number of links to the many previous articles he’s written about 23andMe and Navigenics.

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Should We All Be Testing Our DNA?

That’s the title of an article at BBC News yesterday. The article’s header states that:

“More and more people in the UK are following America’s lead in spending hundreds of pounds on private genetic tests.”

The article is about genetic testing for health concerns, not for genealogical purposes. Although the article is very short, the author does manage to highlight a few of the potential benefits and downfalls of genetic testing.

A Contest From DNA Heritage

DNA Heritage is hosting a video contest for people who have undergone DNA testing for ancestral purposes. Following are the details of the contest:

Dear Customer,Thank you for all of your suggestions for improving the website which we have put into motion. Among them is flexible DNA storage, which we shall implement at the end of this month (we’ll let you know when).Spotted the video link on our home page? We wanted to hear about your own experience.Have a story to tell?

Want to tell people why you took a DNA test or what it told you about you and your family? How has it helped your research? How did you do it and what did you get out of it?

Tell us by video and we’ll give you 50% off your next test, be it for you, a friend or some distant cousin in another part of the world. Not a bad Xmas present for a few minutes work…

If we think it’s the best one we’ll give you three free tests.

Two runner-ups will get a free test each.

And you get to choose the test be it a Surname DNA, Paternal Roots or Maternal Roots test.

The Rules.

  • Have fun with it
  • Much like international figure skating, points are awarded for transitions, performance/execution, choreography/composition and interpretation
  • Must be somewhere between 1 and 5 minutes long
  • Must mention us by name
  • You can name-drop Ybase too
  • Let us upload it our site and to sites like YouTube etc.
  • Email it to us before December 1st 2007 we’ll judge it right after that in time for Xmas
  • The tests need to be used by the end of February 2008
  • Accepted in WMV, AVI, MOV, MPEG and MP4 formats – pretty much anything

Best of luck to all you budding Cecil B. DeMilles!

Sincerely,
Alastair Greenshields
Principal
DNA Heritage
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10 DNA Testing Myths Busted

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1.Genetic genealogy is only for hardcore genealogists.

Wrong!If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of your DNA, or about your direct paternal or maternal ancestral line, then genetic genealogy might be an interesting way to learn more.Although DNA testing of a single line, such as through an mtDNA test, will only examine one ancestor out of 1024 potential ancestors at 10 generations ago, this is a 100% improvement over 0 ancestors out of 1024.If you add your father’s Y-DNA, this is a 200% improvement.Now add your mother’s mtDNA, and so on.However, with this in mind, please note the next myth:

2.I’m going to send in my DNA sample and get back my entire family tree.

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