The First British People Were Dark-Skinned

DNA from one of Britain’s first people, Cheddar Man, shows that he was very likely to have dark brown skin and blue eyes. By sequencing the ancient DNA extracted from his skeleton, scientists were able to create skin color, eye color, and hair type. Despite his name of “Cheddar Man,” scientists also know from his DNA that he couldn’t digest milk.

Close up of the model of Cheddar Man rendered by Kennis & Kennis Reconstructions

MyHeritage on BBC World News

MyHeritage’s Founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet, visited the BBC’s London studio to speak to Aaron Heslehurst and Talking Business, BBC World News’ flagship business show. They spoke about MyHeritage DNA and the future of genetic genealogy. Japhet also talked about the growth of MyHeritage and the growth of DNA as a genealogy tool.

You can watch the interview on YouTube at https://youtu.be/WBWE9saXOD0 or in the video player below.

They Considered Themselves White, but DNA Tests Told a More Complex Story

How well do you know your ancestry? As more Americans take advantage of genetic testing to pinpoint the makeup of their DNA, the technology is coming head to head with the country’s deep-rooted obsession with race and racial myths. This is perhaps no more true than for the growing number of self-identified European Americans who learn they are actually part African.

An article by Tara Bahrampour in the Washington Post points out that many Americans are unaware of their own racial heritage. The article states, “…a 2014 study of 23andMe customers found that around 5,200, or roughly 3.5 percent, of 148,789 self-identified European Americans had 1 percent or more African ancestry, meaning they had a probable black ancestor going back about six generations or less.”

A New Company Wants to Sequence Your Genome and Let You Share It on a Blockchain

Disclaimer: I am questioning the wisdom of this proposal. I don’t think I will participate. However, it is an interesting story so I will mention here and let you make up your own mind. Nebula Genomics plans to address one of the concerns about taking DNA tests: Who owns your test results? You? Or the company that did the testing?

Nebula Genomics says it plans to sequence your genome for under $1,000, give you insights about it, secure it using a blockchain, and allow you to do whatever you want with the data.

Nebula is the brainchild of PhD student Dennis Grishin, graduate Kamal Obbad, and geneticist George Church, all from Harvard. Mirza Cifric, CEO of Veritas Genetics, which offers a genome-sequencing service for $999, is a founding advisor.

5 Things You Need to Know About DNA Testing for Genealogy

Did you have your DNA tested and do the results confuse you? Amy Johnson Crow has some suggestions that might clear the confusion. You can read her article, 5 Things You Need to Know About DNA Testing for Genealogy, at: https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/dna-testing-for-genealogy.

Contacting DNA Matches is Now Free on MyHeritage

In response to popular demand, Contacting DNA Matches is now available to all MyHeritage DNA users for free. This remains free for people who uploaded DNA data to MyHeritage, and, for the first time, is also free to users with MyHeritage DNA kits who do not have a subscription plan.

Details may be found in the MyHeritage Blog at: https://blog.myheritage.com/2018/01/contacting-dna-matches-is-now-free.

Map Your Genome at Home With a Cell-Phone Sized Human DNA Sequencer

The most extensive and detailed human genome sequence yet has been assembled using a hand-held device roughly the size of a cell phone. Best of all, the new device is expected to cost about $1,000 US. I don’t think I will buy one at that price but I can see where a small medical office or other medical professionals certainly will want one.

An international team of scientists working at a lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, created a portable nanopore sequencer that not only used DNA fragments hundreds of times longer than is standard, but closed 12 gaps in the known human genome, according to a UCSC press release.

Good Morning Britain Hosts Receive their MyHeritage DNA Results Live on Air

Four hosts on the TV morning show Good Morning Britain, took a MyHeritage DNA test. MyHeritage were invited on to the show to reveal the hosts’ results, and to discuss their ethnic origins and family histories. The hosts were inspired and surprised by their results. You can see how they reacted live on air at https://youtu.be/6rhovvhg-pY or in the video player below:

The Body of Boris Johnson’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother is Identified by DNA

Boris Johnson is the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and also is a Member of Parliament. He previously was the Mayor of London. Now a skeleton unearthed in a church in Basel, Switzerland, has been identified as one of his ancestors. DNA experts have finally revealed the woman is Anna Catharina Bischoff, a member of the wealthy Basel family the Bischoffs. There is evidence that the lady probably died of syphillis.

The Foreign Secretary said he was ‘excited’ to hear that the unknown mummy, discovered four decades ago, has now been identified as his ‘late great grand ‘mummy”.

Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘Very excited to hear about my late great grand ‘mummy’ – a pioneer in sexual health care. Very proud.’

You can read more in an article by Lara Keayin the DailyMail web site at: http://dailym.ai/2DFcp9t.

Legacy Tree Genealogists to Sponsor DNA Innovation Contest at RootsTech

The following announcement was written by the folks at Legacy Tree Genealogists:

Legacy Tree Genealogists, the world’s highest-rated genealogy research firm, will be a sponsor of the upcoming DNA Innovation Contest at RootsTech. Additionally, Legacy Tree’s Senior Genetic Genealogist, Paul Woodbury, has been invited to participate as a panel judge to assist in determining the winning entry.

professional genealogist Paul Woodbury

“I’m honored to have been invited to participate in this capacity,” said Woodbury. “At Legacy Tree we embrace evolving technology in the genealogy sphere, and anything we can do to be a catalyst to support the DNA community, cultivate innovation and inspire others to do the same is something we want to be involved in.”

The contest, open to innovators, entrepreneurs, businesses and non-profits across the country and globe, offers $50,000 in cash and services to winning innovators and entrepreneurs whose solutions improve the use and reliability of DNA methods and research. Applications to the contest can be submitted now through February 20, 2018 at http://www.growutah.com/centrum/dna.

Know Your Roots, For Your Health’s Sake

People research their family trees for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one of the most important reasons is to help each person maintain good health.

If your ancestors died of a particular medical problem, there is a chance that you will develop the same problem. Knowing the causes of death of your forebears does not automatically mean that you will have the same problems, but it at least makes you aware of the inherited possibilities. There is a strong possibility that you could improve your own health and possibly extend your life and the lives of your loved ones by analyzing the medical problems that run in your family.

Sharon West is a registered nurse and a genealogist. She has published an article explaining why you should find the causes of death of at least the last few generations of your ancestors. The article may be found in the Citizen Times (a newspaper in Asheville, North Carolina) web site at: http://avlne.ws/2rA6AnS.

How MyHeritage Found a New Business in DNA

The TechCrunch web site has an interesting article about MyHeritage’s DNA business. Well, it was interesting to me because MyHeritage is the sponsor of this newsletter. However, I suspect a lot of other genealogists will also be interested in the reasons why MyHeritage added DNA to the company’s product lines and the success that MyHeritage has had with DNA. The article also shows the easy-to-read reports that MyHeritage.com’s DNA testing produces.

The article states, “During the holiday season alone, MyHeritage sold 400,000 DNA kits, up from the just 36,000 it sold in November and December 2016.”

I was surprised that the article also described the impact of DNA testing to the company’s finances.

NIH wants 1 Million Americans to Contribute to a New Pool of Genetics Data

Starting this spring, Americans across the country will be invited to contribute to a massive new pool of genomic information being assembled by the government, a project that represents the most ambitious effort yet to capitalize on the promising new frontier of gene-based medicine.

Three years after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) first announced its Precision Medicine Initiative — subsequently redubbed “All of Us” — the agency’s director, Francis Collins, says the large-scale project is ready to expand beyond its initial testing stages. In early spring, on a date yet to be announced, NIH is planning a nationwide launch to start enrolling what it hopes will eventually be as many as 1 million participants.

Genome of Man Who Died in 1827 Has Been Reverse-Engineered Without Any Remains

Hans Jonatan was born in the Caribbean in 1784, migrated to Iceland in 1802, and died in 1827 – and scientists have just managed to reconstruct part of his genome from 182 of his descendants, even though Hans’ remains have long since been lost.

This remarkable feat of reverse genetic engineering – the first time someone’s genotype has been reconstructed using only descendants rather than their physical remains – reveals that Hans’ mother was originally from somewhere in the Benin, Nigeria, and Cameroon region.

The study demonstrates that with enough genealogical and genotype data available, reconstructing a historical genome sequence like this is possible.

What can Your Ancestry Tell You about Neurological Diseases?

The Silicon Republic web site has published an interesting interview with Gianpiero Cavalleri of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and deputy director of the Science Foundation Ireland-funded FutureNeuro research centre.

Gianpiero Cavalleri

Cavalleri is researching family trees in order to leverage that knowledge of population structure to help identify new disease genes and genetic changes that might be causing disease from those that are neutral. As part of that effort, he helped to create the first fine-scale genetic map of Ireland, revealing the first evidence of 10 distinct genetic clusters on the island.

The article states:

Major Updates and Improvements to MyHeritage DNA Matching

MyHeritage has made major updates and improvements to the company’s DNA Matching service.

Anyone who took a MyHeritage DNA test, and anyone who uploaded DNA data from another service, will now receive even more accurate DNA Matches; more plentiful matches (about 10 times more); fewer false positives; more specific and more accurate relationship estimates; and indications on lower confidence DNA Matches to help focus research efforts.

The company also also added an initial release of the long-requested chromosome browser.

More information can be found in the MyHeritage Blog post at:  http://bit.ly/2mtj0ZO.

First Genetic Map of Ireland Unlocks Secrets About Ancestors

The first genetic map of the people of Ireland has been produced by scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons and by genealogical researchers at the Genealogical Society of Ireland. The Irish DNA Atlas; Revealing Fine-Scale Population Structure and History within Ireland has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study has found that prior to the mass movement of people in recent decades, there were at least 10 distinct genetic clusters found in specific regions across Ireland. It also revealed that seven of those clusters discovered so far are of ‘Gaelic’ Irish ancestry and match the borders of either Irish provinces or historical kingdoms. The other three are of shared Irish-British ancestry, and are mostly found in the north of Ireland and probably reflect the Ulster Plantations.

The Irish DNA Atlas also found that two of the ‘Gaelic’ clusters together align with the boundaries of the province of Munster.

Introducing MyHeritage Surveys for Those Who took a MyHeritage DNA Test or Uploaded Their DNA Test to MyHeritage

The MyHeritage Blog has announced a new service from the company that will “investigate how genetics affects various aspects of our lives.” The announcement says (in part):

“At MyHeritage, we constantly discover new ways for our users to explore their origins and learn more about who they are. Our Science Team, led by world-renowned genetics pioneer Dr. Yaniv Erlich, recently released surveys — a cutting-edge research project to help us investigate how genetics affects various aspects of our lives, with the cooperation of the MyHeritage community.

DNA Wall Art

Here is a rather unusual Christmas gift: a framed canvas art displaying one’s DNA, suitable for hanging on a wall. No two of these will ever be alike. I bet not everyone will receive one of these!

DNA11 is a company in Ottawa, Ontario that produces colorful framed canvas art for hanging, and smaller versions for desk display. One of the offerings is a display of one’s DNA markers. The information for each display comes from a quick and easy swabbing of the inside of your cheek.

Law Enforcement Won’t Use Your Ancestry.com or 23andme DNA Kits for Investigations

A lot of negative, and often misleading, publicity concerning home DNA testing has been floating around the news services this week. Many of the news reports are completely wrong. The WCPO web site has a news story and video that clears the clearly refutes the misleading stories. You can read the truth and watch the video at: http://bit.ly/2kb6JLv.