Family Tree DNA Announces a Holiday Sale

Click on the above image to view a larger version

Here is an opportunity to test your own DNA at a discount or, perhaps even better, to give a DNA test as a Christmas gift. This morning, Family Tree DNA announced a holiday sale that will last through 11:59 PM Central Time on New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2014.

Best of all, there will be a new Mystery Reward every week. Customers can use the discount or can share it with a friend. In addition, all customers who have purchased the Big Y test will receive a coupon for $50 off a Big Y test.

Details may be found at http://www.familytreedna.com.

AncestryDNA Announces Enhanced DNA matching and a Beta for DNA Circles

This morning AncestryDNA announced some major updates to its available services. DNA Circles is the name for what was previously known as DNA match groups. This is being launched in beta as the technology is still in its early days. The help section of DNA Circles has lots of information on how this works and the company also will be posting an overview for everyone to read shortly.

You need to have a subscription (any level) and a public tree linked to your DNA results in order to see your own DNA Circles. You will be able to download your old DNA matches for a limited time.

You can read more in the Ancestry Blog at http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2014/11/19/dna-matching-just-got-better/.

Here are some screen shots to illustrate the new DNA features. Click on any of the following to view larger versions:

75% of Jews Share Roots in Middle East

Where did the Jews originate? For Bennett Greenspan, the founder and president of Family Tree DNA, there’s little doubt, and it can all be proven with a swab of cheek cells. The overwhelming majority of Jews living today should be able to trace their roots back to the Middle East with a little DNA testing, he maintains, and all those who claim otherwise, as far as he’s concerned, have their history wrong.

Greenspan was referring to the controversial book written by Tel Aviv University historian Shlomo Sand, which asserts that the Jews of today did not originate in the Middle East and that a “nation-race” of Jews never existed. Most of today’s Jews, he argues in The Invention of the Jewish People (2008), are the descendants of people who lived elsewhere in the world and were converted to Judaism. However, a major study published two years later by Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, claims that many contemporary Jews do, indeed, have a distinctive genetic signature and can trace their ancestry back to the Middle East.

Murder Mystery Solved by DNA From the Back of a Postage Stamp

This is a long and somewhat long and convoluted story that is also fascinating. It could be the script of a CSI television show except this is a true story. Police in Italy used DNA and genealogy to identify a murderer of a young girl in a small town. The identification was made two years after the murder. However, the alleged murderer denies his guilt and there does seem to be some doubt. Is DNA always accurate?

You can read the interesting story by Nicholas Farrell in Newsweek at http://www.newsweek.com/2014/11/14/murdery-mystery-solved-back-stamp-282052.html.

Own Your Own DNA Machine

Spoiler alert: this machine is designed to diagnose medical problems, not to determine one’s ancestry. However, if this technology becomes available at much cheaper prices than ever before, who knows what may be announced in the future?

The Open qPCR is disrupting DNA diagnostics. The aim of the project is simple: Chai Biotechnologies wants to make this essential technology available to everyone, including doctors in developing countries, students in high school and university labs, companies in the food supply chain, and biohackers who are developing some of the most innovative synthetic biology applications.

Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry through DNA Testing

Richard Hill has released version 2 of his Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry through DNA Testing. The ebook is available as a Kindle book. It sells for the modest price of 99 cents (U.S.)

The Guide is a brief overview designed to help people (1) see the benefits of genetic genealogy and (2) take the right tests for their needs. By offering this to the huge Amazon audience, Richard hopes to get many more genealogists to take the leading tests. As these databases grow, we will all get more and better matches.

As described on Amazon:

23andMe and MyHeritage Announce Strategic Collaboration and Product Integration

The following announcement indicates a major partnership that will provide major enhancements to the services of both companies. 23andMe’s customers will be able to enjoy automated family history discoveries by using MyHeritage’s Smart Matching™ Record Matching services. MyHeritage customers will now be able to use matching DNA to explore their family tree connections.

You might want to watch the video below and then read the written announcement from MyHeritage (the sponsor of this newsletter) and 23andMe:

If your web browser does not display the video player above, you can also watch it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1MefhlGTA8.

The following was written by MyHeritage and 23andMe:

Update: Was Jack the Ripper REALLY Identified through DNA? No!

On September 8, 2014, I published an article at http://goo.gl/qiOXlb about recent claims that Jack the Ripper had finally been identified by the use of DNA. I thought the “evidence” was much too flimsy to be believed. Now a group of scientists has published a report that agrees: the identity of notorious killer is still a mystery 126 years after string of murders.

Scientists have said evidence which claimed to have unmasked Jack the Ripper is wrong because a decimal point may have been put in the wrong place during calculations to match the killer’s DNA with his descendants. In fact, they say, the sequence he found could be shared by the majority of the population and therefore cannot be matched to Kosminski – one of the suspects in the string of murders which took place on London’s streets more than 100 years ago – or the Ripper’s victim.

Discovery of an Inherited Heart and Gut Disease

You can blame your ancestors again! I recently wrote (at http://goo.gl/JkpLDI) about an inherited disease called Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy (OPMD). It is passed down from generation to generation amongst French-Canadians and several other ethnic groups. The French-Canadians are unique in that the disease has been traced back to specific ancestors. Other ethnic groups that suffer from OPMD generally cannot identify the individuals in the family tree that passed the problem on hundreds of years ago.

Of course, many medical conditions are inherited and can be traced back to ancestral origins, even if not to specific individuals. One newly-discovered inherited medical condition can be traced back to Viking ancestors. Again, specific 17th-century ancestors who passed the problem on to their descendants have been identified.

23andMe Expands Into Canada

23andMe, is now offering health and ancestry information based on analysis of DNA to Canadians. Founded in 2006, the company provides home-based saliva-testing kits, which customers send in for genetic analysis.

23andMe will charge Canadian clients CDN$199 plus shipping for its personal genome service through 23andMe.ca, which the company says will help them to better understand their health and ancestry and “to possibly discover new relatives.”

Canadians will have access to 108 health-related reports that includes information on genetic risk factors for various health conditions, potential drug responses, genetic traits and inherited conditions.

It sounds to me as if 23andMe is offering not only genealogy-related testing but also is offering the medical testing that was stopped in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration. Obviously, there is no prohibition (so far) about offering the same service in other countries. The Canadians will benefit from having access to medical testing that is prohibited for Americans unless they get a doctor to order similar, but very expensive, tests for a patient.

Attention French-Canadian Descendants: Did You Inherit Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy?

Not only do genealogists have the opportunity to learn about their ancestors, but they can also learn about various inherited diseases. Some of these medical conditions could be life-threatening while others are merely an inconvenience. By studying inherited diseases floating around in your family, you may save or prolong your own life or the lives of your loved ones. By identifying the risks early in a person’s life, medical treatment often can be much more effective than the limited choices available after the medical condition becomes obvious.

I find it interesting that one French-Canadian couple in the 1600s who are the ancestors of millions of living people have tentatively been identified as carriers of a common form of muscular dystrophy. It became more than “interesting,” however, when I recognized the names of this couple as my ninth great-grandparents. Suddenly it wasn’t just “interesting;” it was personal!

If you have French-Canadian ancestry, now is the time to check your pedigree charts.

Follow-Up: Now it is Too Late to Transfer Your Y-DNA Information

On June 6, I wrote a brief article with the title of Now is the Time to Transfer Your Y-DNA and Autosomal DNA Information at http://goo.gl/MfL5fD. I wrote that:

“Ancestry.com™ announced that the company will no longer sell Y-DNA and mtDNA tests. Even worse, the results from past Y-DNA and mtDNA tests will no longer be available after September 5, 2014. Ancestry.com apparently will erase all of its customers’ Y-DNA and mtDNA test results. Anyone who has Y-DNA data stored on Ancestry.com probably will want to transfer that data to a different matching service, preferably well before September 5.”

It is no surprise that Ancestry.com has now completed what they announced they would do. An article by Roberta Estes at http://dna-explained.com/2014/10/02/ancestry-destroys-irreplaceable-dna-database states:

New Welsh DNA Project is Announced

A groundbreaking new DNA project is aimed at finding out, “Who are the Welsh exactly?” The ambitious scheme, launched last night at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay, hopes to take DNA samples from thousands of individuals in order to trace Welsh lineage back over many thousands of years to find out where their ancestors first came from.

The brainchild of CymruDNA Wales — in an exclusive partnership with the Daily Post, the Western Mail, S4C and production company Greenbay Media — the project aims to delve, via a simple saliva sample, back way beyond written records to the end of the last ice age around 9,000 BC when colossal glacial shifts gouged the landscape of Wales and allowed the first immigrants to settle there.

With Genetic Testing, I Gave My Parents the Gift of Divorce

DNA testing can be a wonderful thing. It solves family mysteries, brings families closer together, and more. Sometimes…

A stem cell and reproductive biologist had his own DNA tested. After all, he is a DNA expert. He even teaches a college course about the genome. He recently gave DNA kits to both his mother and his father and was anxious to see the results. As he wrote, “I was very interested in confirming any susceptibility to cancers that I heard had run in my family, like colon cancer. I wanted to know if I had a genetic risk.”

He received a surprise, to say the least. It seems 23andme found a close relative, closer than anyone had expected.

Was Jack the Ripper REALLY Identified through DNA? I Doubt It.

The news services are full of stories claiming that Jack the Ripper has finally been identified through “proof” provided by DNA. The story claims that Jack the Ripper was really Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew whose family had emigrated to London to escape pogroms in the 19th Century.

However, a closer look at the story raises serious questions about the “proof.” The claimed “proof” is questionable at best. It may even be outright fraud although I hope not.

Is Genetic Genealogy the Next Facebook of Science?

Last Saturday morning at the first International Conference for Genetic Genealogy in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Genographic Project Director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells delivered the Keynote to an audience of 300 genetic genealogists. He spoke about the popularity of the field and how fast consumer genetics has grown since the launch of The Genographic Project in 2005.

Could genetic genealogy become popular outside of the genealogy and medical communities? Perhaps. You can read a short article by Miguel Vilar about Saturday’s presentations in the National Geographic web site at http://goo.gl/qrCHWP.

Will Ancestry.com Add Family Health Info to Autosomal DNA Genetic Genealogy Service?

An article in the BioArray News, written by Justin Petrone, speculates that Ancestry.com may expand its genetic genealogy services to include family health-related information. A company spokesperson confirmed that the firm is in the “early stages of exploring family health history as a part of our company’s offering,” but declined to further elaborate.

You can read Justin Petrone’s article at http://goo.gl/baIkLy. (You will have to create a user name and password before you can read the article.)

AncestryDNA Matching Update Impacts Jewish Ancestry

The following is an extract from a new announcement posted on the Ancestry.com Blog:

AncestryDNA customers with significant Jewish ancestry have witnessed the challenges that we and other genetic genealogy testing companies have faced when predicting genetic relatives. Most Jewish customers find that we predict them to be related to nearly every other Jewish customer in the database! So while we all know that the cousin matches for Jewish and some Hispanic customers were over-estimates, detecting which cousin matches were real and which ones were bogus has always been a challenge for these populations.

Google’s New Baseline Study Wants to Map Your DNA

Google has begun a new project aiming to define what constitutes a healthy human being. The project, called Baseline Study, will collect “anonymous genetic and molecular information,” initially from 175 people but eventually thousands of others. The hope is that the Baseline Study will help researchers detect killers such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, pushing medicine more toward prevention rather than the treatment of illness. Google will use its computing power to analyze the info and find patterns, called biomarkers. The hope is that these biomarkers can be used to detect any disease a lot earlier.

This is a hugely ambitious project which could lead to better preventative measures enabling us all to live longer.

Announcing “How-To DNA” – A Multimedia How-To Guide for Genetic Genealogy

Blaine Bettinger is a genealogist and a DNA expert with a Ph.D. in biochemistry with a concentration in genetics. He is a frequent author and lecturer with a focus on DNA. He has now announced the creation of a new online how-to guide for genetic genealogy. The site will include short instructional how-to videos for beginners, as well as presentations and webcasts for the advanced genealogist.


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