DNA

Why Your Latest Ancestry.com Results Could Include More Scottish or Irish in Your Ethnicity Estimates

Five days ago I published a press release written by Ancestry.com entitled Ancestry® Now Delivers More Precise Ethnicity Estimates and I added a couple of brief comments of my own.

The article generated a lot of comments from newsletter readers, many of whom questioned if the new and “improved” results were really more accurate than earlier reports or if perhaps the new reports were even less accurate.

California Enacts the Genetic Privacy Information Act

This undoubtedly will affect the sharing of DNA information for genealogy and many other purposes.   I suspect that GEDmatch.com will be affected, at least for any activities involving residents of California. The following is an extract from the jdsupra.com website, an online service that provides legal information to the legal community:

justice statue

“With the focus of personal privacy increasing, it is unsurprising that additional laws are being proposed to increase privacy rights, including the California Privacy Rights Act initiative on the ballot this upcoming November. More immediately, the California legislature passed, and Governor Newsom signed, the Genetic Information Privacy Act (“GIPA”). GIPA specifically targets biometric information, due to the increase of genetic tracing services, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com. This law pertains to adding more protections to genetic privacy. Many questions arise following the passage of GIPA, such as what businesses are affected? What, if any, penalties or causes of action exist under this new law? How does this law work alongside the CCPA?

“WHAT IS IN THE LAW?

Grandson of Former US President Asks to Exhume His Remains

Warren G. Harding

Here is a person who is really determined to prove his ancestry:

The grandson of former US President Warren G Harding has launched a legal bid to have the Republican’s remains exhumed to confirm they are related.

James Blaesing is the grandson of Nan Britton who was Harding’s mistress while the president was still married to Florence (Kling) Harding. James Blaesing told a court he wants to establish his ancestry with “scientific certainty”.

But other members of Harding’s family have opposed the request, filed in May.

You can read more about this story in an article in the BBC News website at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54146221.

Ancestry® Now Delivers More Precise Ethnicity Estimates

Those of us who have taken multiple DNA tests from different DNA companies have often experienced results where all the tests did not agree with each other.  As stated in today’s announcement from Ancestry.com:

While your DNA doesn’t change, the science we use to determine your ethnicity estimates does. Advances in the algorithms used to analyze your DNA and increases in the size and diversity of the reference panel can help you connect to even more regions around the world. As our DNA network grows and science advances, you can expect more comprehensive and precise results.”

My interpretation: if you had your DNA tested a few years ago or even recently by a different DNA testing company, taking a new DNA test today (or re-interpreting your original DNA sample) may result in more comprehensive and precise results.”  Of course, this isn’t limited to Ancestry.com or to any other one DNA testing company. All the major DNA testing companies are constantly working to improve the accuracy of their tests.

Today’s announcement from Ancestry.com describes the recent improvements made to that company’s DNA test methodologies. The result should be significantly improved accuracy. It may even shift your reported ancestry to a different place of origin. I suggest you carefully read the last two paragraphs of the following Ancestry.com announcement (You may want to “trade in your lederhosen for a kilt):

Researchers Use DNA to Identify 72 Men Buried at a Convict Work Camp Site

95 African Americans whose remains were discovered in 2018 at a Fort Bend Independent School District (Texas) construction site. As the community has debated the future of the site and how to honor the dead, little has been known about those buried there except that they were likely part of the state’s brutal convict-leasing system.

That changed this month, when Fort Bend ISD released a 500-page report providing more information about the discovery and tentatively identifying 72 of the persons believed to be buried at the previously unmarked cemetery.

DNA analysis is now starting to reveal the names of the bodies.

FDA grants 23andMe Clearance to Offer Interpretive Drug Information for Two Medications

The following announcement was written by 23andMe:

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted 23andMe a 510(k) clearance for a pharmacogenetics report on two medications, clopidogrel, prescribed for certain heart conditions, and citalopram, which is prescribed for depression.

The decision this week modifies the labeling of the previously authorized CYP2C19 Drug Metabolism report which was granted FDA authorization in 2018. The new 510(k) clearance for the pharmacogenetics report for CYP2C19 modifies the labeling to remove the need for confirmatory testing and allows 23andMe to report interpretive drug information for two medications.

Should You Remove Your Data Now From Ancestry.com?

Blackstone Inc. is purchasing Ancestry.com. (See my earlier articles at https://bit.ly/31Im9sL and at https://bit.ly/3gJN6lP for the details of the announcement.) As you might expect, the announcement has generated a lot of questions amongst genealogists asking questions about the future of the company and how the services might change. Many of those questions concern the privacy of personal DNA information of customers as presently held by Ancestry.com.

Are there any issues of privacy or with the idea that the new web site owners might use your genealogy data or your DNA information for purposes you never envisioned when you contributed the information? The answers are mixed.

Follow-up Concerning DNA Information and Ancestry.com’s Sale to Blackstone in a $4.7 Billion Deal

I published an article 2 days ago (at https://bit.ly/31Im9sL) containing an announcement that Ancestry.com and all its subsidiaries are to be sold to the Blackstone Group Inc. for $4.7 billion (US) including debt. The announcement was brief and contained very few details.

As you might expect, the announcement has generated a lot of questions amongst genealogists asking questions about the future of the company and how the services might change. Many of those questions concern the privacy of DNA information presently held by Ancestry.com.

An article this morning by Kevin Truong in the Vice.com web site answered a few questions concerning the company’s DNA business. He writes:

“Ancestry is known for its genealogy and home DNA testing services. According to its website, the company has 3 million paying subscribers, 27 billion records, and 100 million family trees. The website also says that over 18 million people have been DNA tested through the company.

Ancestry® Launches AncestryHealth®, Powered by Next Generation Sequencing (NGS)

The following announcement was written by Ancestry.com:

“When it comes to your health and your family’s health, the more you know, the better,” said Dr. Ron Park, MD, EVP of Health and DNA, Ancestry.  Read more in our exciting announcement.

Now with Next Generation Sequencing(NGS), NGS looks at thousands more places in your DNA at once, compared to other genetic testing technologies that only look for a small number of them.

  • Learn more about AncestryHealth®
  • AncestryHealth® FAQ
  • Designed to be offered at an affordable price, AncestryHealth® is improving access to the powerful genetic testing capability of Next Generation Sequencing.
  • AncestryHealth® includes everything in AncestryDNA® + Traits

Why a Data Breach at a Genealogy Site Has Privacy Experts Worried

From an article by Heather Murphy and published in the New York Times:

“GEDmatch, a longstanding family history site containing around 1.4 million people’s genetic information, had experienced a data breach. The peculiar matches were not new uploads but rather the result of two back-to-back hacks, which overrode existing user settings, according to Brett Williams, the chief executive of Verogen, a forensic company that has owned GEDmatch since December.”

Also:

“Scientists and genealogists say the GEDmatch breach — which exposed more than a million additional profiles to law enforcement officials — offers an important window into what can go wrong when those responsible for storing genetic information fail to take necessary precautions.”

You can learn a lot more in the article at: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/01/technology/gedmatch-breach-privacy.html.

Genetic Impact of African Slave Trade Revealed in DNA Study

A major DNA study has shed new light on the fate of millions of Africans who were traded as slaves to the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries.

More than 50,000 people took part in the study, which was able to identify more details of the “genetic impact” the trade has had on present-day populations in the Americas. It lays bare the consequences of rape, maltreatment, disease and racism.

Your Genes May Influence Your COVID-19 Risk, According to a New Study

Here’s another thing that may be the “fault” of your ancestors. Combing through the genome, researchers have tied COVID-19 severity and susceptibility to some genes associated with the immune system’s response, as well as a protein that allows the disease-causing SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus into our cells. They have also turned up links between risk and a person’s blood type—A, B, AB or O.

Gedmatch is Investigating After Users’ DNA Profile Data was Made Available to Police

From an article by Zack Whittaker in the TechCrunch website:

“Gedmatch, the DNA analysis site that police used to catch the so-called Golden State Killer, was pulled briefly offline on Sunday while its parent company investigated how its users’ DNA profile data apparently became available to law enforcement searches.

“The site, which lets users upload their DNA profile data to trace their family tree and ancestors, rose to overnight fame in 2018 after law enforcement used the site to match the DNA from a serial murder suspect against the site’s million-plus DNA profiles in the site’s database without first telling the company.

COVID-19 Pandemic Has Heightened Interest in Underlying Health Risks, Ancestry® Family Health Survey Shows

From an announcement written by Ancestry.com:

“Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, today released results of a survey recently commissioned to understand how consumers view their health — and in particular, their genetic health risks — during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the newly released Family Health Survey, by Ancestry, in an era when concerns about health are rising in general, almost half (47%) of all Americans and nearly 60 percent of parents said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased their specific interest in understanding their possible genetic health risks.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear to many people the importance of taking proactive actions to protect their health and their family’s health,’ said Dr. Ron Park, MD, EVP of Health and DNA, Ancestry. ‘The survey shows that this applies to not only concerns specific to COVID-19 but also other health issues, such as genetic risks.'”

You can read the full announcement at: https://bit.ly/3eyeLUS.

Test Your Dog’s DNA

I have written before (at https://blog.eogn.com/2019/04/25/test-your-dogs-dna/) about testing a dog’s DNA. However, I noted this morning that Amazon has a dog DNA testing kit from the same testing company on sale for $99. If you want to check your dog’s heritage, this might be the time to do so.

The advertisement states:

Florida Becomes First State to Enact DNA Privacy Law, Blocking Insurers From Genetic Data

Florida on Wednesday became the nation’s first state to enact a DNA privacy law, prohibiting life, disability and long-term care insurance companies from using genetic tests for coverage purposes.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1189, sponsored by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. It extends federal prohibitions against health insurance providers accessing results from DNA tests, such as those offered by 23andMe or AncestryDNA, to the three other insurers.

Sprowls, the House speaker-designate, called the legislation a “major victory for Floridians” that “will make Florida the leader in the nation in protecting our residents and our citizens’ genetic information” when it was adopted by the House, 110-0, and the Senate, 35-3.

Genetic Genealogy Used To Crack Golden State Killer Case Opened Door For More Than 150 Cold Cases

Here is a brief quote from a new article by Julie Watts and published on Sacramento’s CBS13 web site:

“It’s estimated that more than 150 violent cold case suspects have been identified using genetic genealogy since the arrest of the Golden State Killer.

“The technology wasn’t new, but the Sacramento case opened the door for genealogy crime-fighting nationwide.”

The article then goes on to provide various details as well as some quotes from Parabon’s Chief Genetic Genealogist, Cece Moore. You can read more at: https://cbsloc.al/31u4w16.

How Immune From COVID-19 Are You? New DNA Test Hopes To Offer Insight

I have no knowledge of this company and its products, other than what it says in a promotional article at https://www.greenentrepreneur.com/article/352231. It does look interesting, however:

With all the talk about boosting immunity during the pandemic, people are looking for ways to stay informed, take precautions, and boost their body’s ability to fight infection. Endocanna Health, a cannabis DNA company, believes they have a unique tool to help you understand your body’s genetic predispositions and potential health risks—a free DNA test that takes a molecular dive into your endocannabinoid system.

MyHeritage DNA Test Review

Carrie Marshall has published a review of MyHeritage’s DNA Test Kits in the TechRadar web site. She writes:

“MyHeritage offers two tiers: ancestor tracking and genetic health screening. Neither service is cheap and the process takes a long time, but the results are comprehensive and very well presented.”

Use of Genealogy DNA in an Iowa Cold Case Conviction Was Unconstitutional, According to the Defense Attorney’s Claims

The state’s use of genetic testing to convict an Iowa man in a 40-year-old cold case was unconstitutional, according to a motion filed in Linn County court.

Jerry Lynn Burns, 66, was found guilty in February of first-degree murder in the 1979 stabbing death of 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids. While waiting to receive the mandatory life sentence that comes with a conviction on that charge, Burns’ attorney has asked the court to give the Manchester man a new trial.

“Those were issues that we raised earlier and we wanted to reurge them in hopes that the court reexamines them,” Leon Spies, Burns’ attorney, told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday.