DNA, Genealogy And The Search For Who We Are

I might suggest that an article by Alva Noë in the NPR web site should be required reading for all genealogists. He writes:

  • You share no DNA with the vast majority of your ancestors.
  • You have more ancestors — hundreds a few generations back, thousands in just a millennium — than you have sections of DNA.
  • You have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents — but if you are a man, you share your Y-chromosome with only one of them.
  • The amount of DNA you pass on to your descendants roughly halves with each generation. It is a matter of chance which of your descendants actually carry any of your DNA.
  • It can be demonstrated that 5,000 years ago everybody alive was either the common ancestor of everyone alive today, or the common ancestor of no one. At this point in history we all share exactly the same set of ancestors.

In other words, everyone alive today is related to everyone else alive today. We are all distant cousins of each other.

Just How Much Is Cancer Due to Your Genes?

About a third of all cancer cases can be blamed on inherited genes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s the biggest and longest study yet done to examine the family links to cancer and it finds that certain types of cancer seem to have very strong genetic links — testicular cancer and melanoma, especially.

The overall findings are not a big surprise. They support earlier findings that show about a third of all cancer cases can be blamed on faulty genes. Most of the rest are due to so-called lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise.

Details may be found in an article by Maggie Fox published by NBC News at http://goo.gl/QLFhCc.

Early Irish Ancestors May Have Come from the Middle East

Do you have Irish ancestry? Maybe you really have Middle Eastern ancestry. The ancestors of the Irish may have come to the Emerald Isle from as far away as the Middle East and Eurasia, a genetic study has found. The discovery was made after the DNA of a woman who lived near Belfast 5,200 years ago and three Irish men dating back to the Bronze Age around 4,000 years ago was mapped. All the genetic sequences showed clear evidence of “massive migration,” said the researchers.

Hair Mites’ DNA Reflects Your Ancestry

This article is a bit disgusting but remains fascinating as well.

Demodex folliculorum is a species of mite that lives in and around the hair follicles of humans and other mammals. Bowdoin College evolutionary geneticist Michael Palopoli and his colleagues sampled the DNA of these mites living on a diverse group of 70 human hosts. The mites’ mitochondrial DNA revealed different lineages that closely match the ancestral geography of their human hosts. One mite lineage is common among people of European ancestry, no matter where they live in the world now, and is persistent even after generations in new locations. Other mite lineages are more common among people of Asian, African or Latin American ancestry.

In other words, you apparently inherited your hair mites from your ancestors. Yuck!

SNP Study Reveals Migration, Ancestry Patterns in South American Latino Populations

A recently published PLOS Genetics paper illustrates ancestral patterns and population histories in admixed Latino individuals in South America.

Using array-based genotyping profiles for more than 400 admixed individuals from five South American countries, researchers from the US, Spain, Mexico, and elsewhere delved into the migration and mixing events that have shaped these populations. By comparing SNP patterns in the individuals with those from several populations that had previously been profiled, they uncovered ancestry patterns reflecting historical migrations in different parts of the continent.

After 74 Years, Bones of Victims in the Pearl Harbor Tomb Ship May Be Identified

74 years ago today, the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,402 military personnel. A full list of the victims may be found at http://www.usmemorialday.org/pearllst.txt. Unidentified remains of hundreds of sailors and Marines who perished on the USS Oklahoma. Over the past six months, with a fresh mandate from the Defense Department, the bones were exhumed from a cemetery in Hawaii and most were brought to a new lab at Offutt, where scientists have begun the task of identifying the remains. The goal is to send the men home.

You can read a lot more about this sad effort at http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article48362490.html.

Ancestry.com Files a Trademark Case Against DNA Diagnostics Center for the Marketing of “AncestryByDNA”

DNA expert CeCe Moore has written about a trademark infringement law suit involving DNA testing that has been filed in the Ohio Southern District Court in Cincinnati. The article may be found in CeCe’s Your Genetic Genealogist blog at http://goo.gl/0MzelE.

DNA Study Helps Solve Abraham Lincoln Lineage Debate

The ancestry of Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, has been debated for a long time. While several theories have been published, none of them included convincing proof. Now a new DNA study by group of five researchers working with Family Tree DNA has solved a 150-year-old mystery surrounding the true identity of Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s mother.

23andMe Will Resume Giving Users Health Data

The genetic testing company 23andMe became a Silicon Valley sensation by providing consumers with health and ancestry information based on a sample of their saliva, but suffered a setback when the Food and Drug Administration told it to stop presenting health data in 2013.

Now, after nearly two years, 23andMe is announcing on Wednesday that it will begin providing customers with health information again, though much less than before and with F.D.A. approval. It is also is raising the price of its service to $199, from $99.

Details may be found at http://goo.gl/8aY8wG.

National Geographic Geno 2.0

NationalGeographicGenoNational Geographic’s Geno 2.0 project collects and analyzes DNA from participants in order to provide ancestral information. But Geno 2.0 isn’t about tracing your ancestry over several generations. Instead it traces migration patterns back about 200,000 years ago, to Africa, “the cradle of humanity.” More than 700,000 people have already taken part in National Geographic’s groundbreaking Genographic Project. You can contribute to this real-time scientific effort and also learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible.

Using a custom-built genotyping chip, the National Geographic Geno 2.0 project claims to test nearly 750,000 DNA markers, many of which have been specifically selected to provide highly detailed ancestry-related information.

For researching your more “recent” ancestors, such as the past 20 generations or so, FamilyTree DNA, 23andMe, and Ancestry DNA probably are better choices. However, the National Geographic Geno project is aimed at finding your ancestors’ migration patterns back 200,000 years. The reports also provide lots of in-depth information and interactive features.

Cops are Asking Ancestry.com and 23andMe for their Customers’ DNA

This news surely will spawn court cases involving privacy and Constitutional provisions regarding self-incrimination. According a story by Kashmir Hill in the Fusion.net web site, “‘Your relative’s DNA could turn you into a suspect,’ warns Wired, writing about a case from earlier this year, in which New Orleans filmmaker Michael Usry became a suspect in an unsolved murder case after cops did a familial genetic search using semen collected in 1996. The cops searched an Ancestry.com database and got a familial match to a saliva sample Usry’s father had given years earlier. Usry was ultimately determined to be innocent and the Electronic Frontier Foundation called it a ‘wild goose chase’ that demonstrated “the very real threats to privacy and civil liberties posed by law enforcement access to private genetic databases.”

23andMe Said to be Valued at $1.1 Billion

23andMe is a privately held personal genomics and biotechnology company that serves provides genealogy DNA testing. Only nine years old, the company is now believed to be worth about $1.1 billion US, according to a person close to the company.

Perhaps even more interesting, 23andMe is preparing to introduce a new consumer product and to expand its drug-discovery arm.

You can read more in an article by Caroline Chen in Bloomberg’s web site at http://goo.gl/HtOQgr.

Ancestry.com Reportedly is in Talks with FDA to Offer Genetic Testing of Medical Conditions

Ancestry.com is talking to the FDA about using DNA to estimate disease risk for the company’s member base. CEO Tim Sullivan revealed the news in an interview with The Verge, effectively announcing his company’s intention to eventually offer straight-to-consumer genetic testing.

Ancestry is currently in the “very early stages of a conversation with the FDA,” Sullivan told The Verge. “We think it’s totally appropriate that the FDA has stepped in to pretty aggressively regulate direct-to-consumer genetic tests—and we’re just starting from that perspective, and trying to work very closely with them,” he continued.

Queen Elizabeth Asks for DNA Tests to Settle Title Feud Involving Title Pretenders

DNA evidence could be used for the first time to resolve a feud over a hereditary title after the Queen personally intervened in the case. The dispute was triggered when an amateur genealogist revealed that a distinguished baronet came from a different bloodline to his relatives, suggesting there may have been an illegitimate child in a previous generation. The two rival branches of the family have since spent thousands of pounds on a legal battle to prove which is the true line.

Peerage authorities have been called upon to determine if genetic material could be used to determine who should inherit the Pringle of Stichill baronetcy.

You can read the details in an article by Gregory Walton in The telegraph at http://goo.gl/c66cJ2.

DNA Testing: Seven Guidelines for Adoptees

Richard Hill has written an article that may be helpful for adoptees or the children of adoptees looking for their biological ancestors. DNA Testing: Seven Guidelines for Adoptees describes the most common tests that will help adoptees. It also warns, “Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on old technology “sibling” or “kinship” tests. Those tests only check a handful of markers and are nearly always inconclusive.”

DNA Testing: Seven Guidelines for Adoptees may be found at http://www.dna-testing-adviser.com/support-files/seven-guidelines-for-adoptees.pdf.

An Interview with Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist

Blaine Bettinger has a Ph.D. in biochemistry with a concentration in genetics and is extremely interested in the recent developments in genetic genealogy. He has been using traditional genealogical research to learn more about his ancestry for almost 20 years. In 2003 he used an autosomal DNA test from one of the first companies offering this type of testing. Since then he has been writing and lecturing extensively about how to apply DNA to your genealogy research.

I had a chance to talk with Blaine at the recent New York State Family History Conference in Syracuse, New York. Blaine talked about his involvement in DNA and he gave great advice for newcomers on how to get started.

Have Your Entire Genome Sequenced for $250

This offer is only available in the U.K. and in South Africa. However, the fact that anyone can provide your entire genome sequence for only $250 is news. I suspect similar prices will soon be available elsewhere although the laws in some countries could be an issue.

Customers of South African health insurance provider Discovery Health will soon be able to have their entire genome sequenced by Human Longevity Inc., which genomics pioneer Craig Venter cofounded last year. The deal between Discovery and Human Longevity marks the first agreement struck between an insurer and a personal genomics company aimed at offering wide access to genetic information. Discovery insures approximately 4 million people in South Africa and the U.K.

Thanks to Genealogists and DNA, a Man with No Name Finally Knows His Real Identity

After 11 years of wondering, searching and struggling, a man in Jacksonville now knows his true identity. Alive, but lost in his amnesia, until he got help from genetic genealogist CeCe Moore.

Moore and a team worked on the man’s case for two and a half years, comparing his DNA to those in databases across the country. Along with information the man thought he remembered, Moore’s team made the connection – when law enforcement couldn’t.

You can read the full story and watch a video about it at http://goo.gl/1rWOcJ.


Limerick DNA Project to Help Decode Irish Family History

A genealogical project pioneered by Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College that uses DNA to trace the genetic history of Limerick families may serve as an inspiration to other Irish communities on how to engage with their heritage, according to Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

The aim of the project is to bring together the historical and genealogical research already collated by the many Limerick experts in these areas, and to examine them in the context of the latest discoveries in Y-chromosome DNA to research the genetic history of Limerick families and communities both here and abroad.

AncestryDNA will now Display Your DNA Matches in a Whole New Way with Shared Matches

AncestryDNA just released a new matching tool called Shared Matches. This new tool will help you see your matches in a whole new way, giving you clues about the common ancestor that may have given both you and your match the DNA you share today. And as a bonus, if you have had a parent tested, you now can see which matches you have in common with them using the mother or father filter.

The Shared Matches tool will show you which matches you and any given match on your list share in common. You can use this new tool to help narrow down your matches to a particular side of your family. It’s especially helpful if you’ve had a parent tested because once you have a parent tested, you’ll see a new filter at the top of your match list that lets you find the DNA matches that you share with your mom or dad.


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