Over the past few months, a group of genealogists and scientists has been working to draft a set of Genetic Genealogy Standards that can be used to guide genealogists and test-takers as they enter and explore the world of genetic genealogy. Importantly this document is not meant to be a manual, but instead is meant to function similarly to standards like the Genealogy Standards. From the preamble of the Standards:
This document is intended to provide ethical and usage standards for the genealogical community to follow when purchasing, recommending, sharing, or writing about the results of DNA testing for ancestry.
It is the responsibility of the test-taker to understand and consider these standards before ordering a test, and when reviewing or sharing their results. However, all genealogists who utilize or recommend DNA testing should: (1) review and understand these standards; (2) strive to meet and exceed these minimum standards; and (3) assist clients with understanding these standards.
Although they have not released any new big tools recently, 23andMe is constantly providing new ways for consumers to interact with the company and learn about genetics.
For example, over at Pinterest, 23andMe now has “What We’re Reading,” which is a great way to stay on top of the latest in the field of personal genomics. A number of my fellow genealogists have taken to using Pinterest both as a way to promote their business and as a way to share information or interests. Social media guru Thomas MacEntee has an article at Family Tree Magazine entitled “Using Pinterest for Genealogy Research,” and his own Presentations board, for example. Although I have a Pinterest presence, I haven’t yet used it for genealogy.
Today at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, Dick Eastman writes in “Avoid Dating Your Cousin – There’s an App for That” about a smartphone app that allows users to “bump” their smartphones – gently bump them together – in order to determine if and how they are related. The Islendiga-App has been around for some time, as other articles discussing the app appear as early as April 2013.
Not surprisingly, it was created in Iceland where genealogies are incredibly detailed and comprehensive. From Dick’s post:
To determine if a potential date is a possible cousin, Icelanders often check the Íslendingabók database. Now a smartphone app will do that for you quickly and easily. Three students from the University of Iceland created a smartphone app, The Islendiga-App, that allows you to bump your phone against another person’s phone, similar to how bump-to-push contact exchange features work, and immediately see your genealogical (if any) relation to the person in question. There is even an alarm feature that lets you know if you share a grandparent.
Tomorrow night at 7 PM EST, I will give a live webinar demonstrating some of the basics of DNA testing for ancestry, including many different ways you can use DNA to solve your family mysteries. The cost is $49.99, which includes the hour-long webinar and my presentation slides. This is the second DNA webinar I’ve given for Family Tree University, and the last one was very well received. It is better suited for those who are new to DNA testing or have received their results and are unsure how to apply them.
And if you are unable to attend tomorrow night, you can download the video and slides at any time! I hope to see you there!
Summary: DNA from genetic cousins will be used to recreate the genomes of unknown ancestors who reside completely behind brick walls. While traditional research will often be able to provide a potential identity for the recreated genome, sometimes the individual will be known only by his or her DNA.
I know I say this every year, but 2014 is shaping up to be the year of Genetic Genealogy. There are many incredible opportunities this year for anyone interested in genetic genealogy to learn more and interact with others.
For example, just last month RootsTech 2014 featured numerous DNA sessions. This coming June, there will be an entire day of DNA at the 2014 SCGS Jamboree, where I and many other speakers will cover numerous topics related to DNA (see my coverage here and here). Among my presentations at Jamboree will be a completely new lecture that I’m really excited about – “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard,” which will be the first presentation completely devoted to the topic, and which I hope will spur some important conversation!
A word of advice: beware anyone who tells you to avoid AncestryDNA.
Many genetic genealogists, myself included, have had incredible success using AncestryDNA’s autosomal DNA test. Personally, several of my own major DNA discoveries have occurred though the service. Unfortunately, it has become popular among some genetic genealogists to deride AncestryDNA’s autosomal DNA test, and some recommend avoiding the service altogether.
While AncestryDNA certainly does have limitations, avoiding the service is missing out on a major opportunity and one of the largest autosomal DNA databases in the world. This is especially true for adoptees; anyone that tells an adoptee not to test with AncestryDNA (or not to test with any one of the three major testing companies) should not be assisting adoptees.
This morning at the RootsTech keynote session, Dr. Ken Chahine of Ancestry.com introduced the second speaker. He gave a very short introduction to AncestryDNA and provided a few tidbits for this year and beyond:
Later this year, AncestryDNA will be releasing a “more granular” ethnicity calculator. You may recall that they updated the calculator just last year.
AncestryDNA plans to release “new tools” this year, including improvements to cousin matching (which echoes comments made by Kenny Freestone earlier in the conference), and tools to “confirm family lines.” These two tools are AncestryDNA’s alternative to a chromosome browser. AncestryDNA has not yet provided a chromosome browser for several reasons including privacy.
Dr. Chahine also discussed, very briefly, the “not-too-distant future” of genetic genealogy:
– Results will be used to analyze the “migration patterns” of our ancestors, including “down to towns.”
– Results will be used to tell you that your “sixth great-grandfather” had “high cheekbones and blue eyes.”
Dr. Chahine concluded by saying that although this sound like “science fiction” it’s the future of genetic genealogy.
I wrote about all these possibilities in a post with a very similar title, “The Science Fiction Future of Genetic Genealogy“. While the things I discuss there all sound like science fiction, it is only a matter of months or years until all these are routine.
EDIT 2/8/2014 – I am happy to report that the group originally organized by CeCe Moore is still planning to work on standards, guidelines, and certification for Genetic Genealogists, and thus I will continue to work with that group. Thank you to everyone that expressed support, and I will try to contact you soon.
Below, I’m taking the unenviable position of disagreeing, at least in part, with an editorial by Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones in National Genealogical Society Quarterly entitled “DNA Standards.” (1) I’m writing to share my viewpoint and my thoughts about moving forward, and to provide a venue for continued discussion on the subject.
This is also the first post in a series of posts about “DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard,” culminating with a presentation with the same title at SCGS Jamboree 2014 (on Friday June 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM).