DNA

Virtual Genealogy Conference Debuts a New DNA Track

Family Tree University has announced an online conference and has even included a special early bird offer for readers of this newsletter. The following was written by the folks at F+W Media, Inc., sponsors of Family Tree University:

Family Tree University’s Winter 2015 Virtual Conference adds Genetic Genealogy sessions to presentation lineup

For a fraction of the cost it takes to travel to—and attend—a live event, Family Tree University’s Winter 2015 Virtual Conference provides attendees with an all-access pass to 15 half-hour video sessions, allowing you to learn from popular genealogy speakers from the comfort of home. And now, FTU is excited to announce the debut of a Genetic Genealogy track.

23andMe Teams With Big Pharma to Find Treatments Hidden in Our DNA

23andMe is a company well-known to genealogists for its DNA services. On Monday, the company announced it is sharing (anonymously) the DNA data it has collected on 650,000 individuals with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Sharing resources, the companies say, will help them figure out new ways to treat disease and to design clinical trials. About 800,000 customers have signed up for 23andMe’s services over seven years, with two-thirds of them giving consent to let their personal test data be used in research.

20 Do’s and Don’ts of DNA

Melvin J. Collier has published an article in his Roots Revealed genealogy blog that I would suggest should be required reading for all genealogists interested in DNA. For instance, Rule #1 says, “Please do not take any DNA test without first trying to put together your family tree. DNA test-takers need to have started working on their family tree or pedigree chart before jumping to DNA. DNA alone will not magically generate your family tree for you.”

You can read that and 19 more rules at http://rootsrevealed.blogspot.com/2015/01/20-dos-and-donts-of-dna.html.

How Many Genetic Ancestors Do You Have?

Bob Jenkins has published an interesting article concerning the origins of your DNA. As he writes:

“The number of genealogical ancestors you have n generations is 2n: 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, and so forth. The only way to have fewer is if some of them are the same person. (For example, I have two great-great-great-great grandparents who are also my great-great-great-great-great grandparents by another line.)

“The difference between genealogical ancestors and genetic ancestors is that genetic ancestors are the ones that you actually got some DNA from. They’re a subset of your genealogical ancestors. Humans have about 3 billion base-pairs of DNA, so that limits the number of genetic ancestors to about 3 billion no matter how far back you go. There are also around 46,000 hotspots (reference Genetic Crossovers Are Predicted Accurately by the Computed Human Recombination Map, figure 6). Hotspots are the places where crossovers usually happen. Each of the 46,000 segments bounded by neighboring hotspots usually has a single line of descent, so you’re limited to about 46,000 ancestors.

DNA Genealogy Companies Help Adoptees Find Their Roots

The Washington Times has published an interesting story about adoptees using DNA technology to find birth parents. Quoting from the article by Cheryl Wetzstein:

Today, hundreds, if not thousands, of adoptees have used DNA genealogy companies like Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry.com to jump over bureaucratic barriers and find members of their genetic families.

“People sometimes say we can’t do it unless there’s close DNA matches, but that’s not true — we can do it with distant ones too,” said CeCe Moore, a professional genetic genealogist who has appeared on “Finding Your Roots” with Henry L. Gates Jr. on PBS.

Your Genes May Affect Whether You Love or Hate Cilantro

You can blame your ancestors for the love or hate of many things, but your reaction to the taste of cilantro???

Many people around the world use cilantro to flavor and garnish their food, but to some people it tastes like a mouthful of soap. The leaves of the Coriandrum sativum plant, known as cilantro or coriander, are widely used in many cuisines around the world. However, many people love cilantro while others claim that it tastes or smells foul, often like soap or dirt. This soapy or pungent aroma is largely attributed to several aldehydes present in cilantro. If you think the Mexican restaurant has a soap problem with its dishwasher, the real problem may be that your ancestors passed on a SNP (or genetic variation) called rs72921001.

Many White Southerners Have African Ancestors Much Closer Than They Think

Many Americans who described themselves as white may be surprised to learn that a large portion of whites, especially in the South, have African ancestors from less than seven generations ago, according to a new study.

Due to the history of slavery in the South, it is no surprise that many Southern white people actually have African ancestors. But those ancestors may not be as far back on the family tree as they assumed. The study conducted by 23andme gathered genetic records of 145,000 people who also submitted cheek swabs. The results revealed that about 3.5 percent of the self-described white Americans across the country had at least 1 percent or more African ancestry. South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi had some of the highest concentrations of European Americans with at least 1 percent African ancestry

New Research Shows the Vikings were Misunderstood – They Were Family Men and did not Rape and Pillage

Well, maybe they pillaged a bit.

I am not sure I believe this but researchers now say DNA evidence shows that women often accompanied Viking men on raiding trips and sometimes even children were in the longboats. The study has shed light on the importance of women in the colonization of the British Isles in the Middle Ages, suggesting that Viking men were family-oriented and not as blood-thirsty as previously thought. Researchers from the University of Oslo have revealed that ‘significant’ numbers of women accompanied Viking men when they sailed to places like the Scottish mainland in longboats.

AncestryDNA Reconstructs Partial Genome of Person Living 200 Years Ago

This could be a monumental announcement for genealogists. Imagine if you could go back in time and see your ancestors. The following announcement was written by Ancestry DNA:

Genetic Networking Technology of DNA Circles(TM) Enables Advancements in Human Genome Reconstruction Methods

PROVO, Utah, Dec. 16, 2014 — AncestryDNA genetic scientists have pushed the boundaries of human genome reconstruction methods by using the DNA of many living people to reassemble an unprecedented proportion of the human genome attributed to a 19th Century American and his two successive spouses. This scientific feat is a step forward in the use of consumer genetics in family history, providing a glimpse into what a long ago ancestor may have looked like or which traits they may have passed down to descendants.

Richard III’s DNA shows an Infidelity Surprise

It seems there was a bit of hanky-panky under the sheets a few hundred years ago. That’s certainly nor unusual amongst the royals but the degree of proof certainly is new. When Richard III’s body was exhumed recently and a DNA sample was obtained, it proved that his supposed descendants weren’t his at all. It seems there was a “false paternity” event somewhere along the way.

Details may be found in an article by Paul Rincon, science editor for BBC News, at http://goo.gl/X0zqlP.

23andMe Expands into the UK

DNA testing firm 23andMe had to stop offering its medical testing in the U.S. because of pressure from the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA apparently doesn’t believe that consumers should have direct access to medical information concerning their own bodies. Instead, the warning letter sent to 23andMe stated that such information should only be given to medical professionals. 23andMe continues to provide genealogy DNA information to customers, however.

23andMe earlier announced the company will start offering all services in Canada. Now the company has also been approved to provide both medical and genealogical DNA services in the U.K. These governments apparently are interested in having their citizens monitor their own health issues.

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.

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