DNA

MyHeritage Offers Free DNA Tests to Help Reunite Separated Migrant Children with their Parents

The following announcement was written by MyHeritage:

We have just announced that, following the recent separation of immigrant parents and children in the United States, MyHeritage is expanding its pro bono initiative, DNA Quest — which helps reunite adoptees with their biological families through DNA testing — to help those parents who were detained at the US border reunite with their children. We are pledging 5,000 additional free DNA tests for separated parents and children who are interested in this opportunity.

For the DNA kits to reach the affected people, MyHeritage has begun contacting relevant government agencies and NGOs that are able to provide assistance with distribution of the DNA kits — to parents in detainment facilities and to their children placed in temporary custody. MyHeritage is also calling the public to assist — anyone who can help with the distribution of the DNA kits and is in touch with the separated families is requested to contact dnaquestsupport@myheritage.com. The DNA results will be processed by MyHeritage and not shared with any third parties.

A New DNA Case Results in the Arrest of a Person for Two Murders in 1987

A Washington state trucker who authorities say was linked by DNA evidence to the 1987 deaths of a young Canadian couple has been charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder. William Earl Talbott II, 55, of SeaTac was charged Friday in Snohomish County (Washington) Superior Court. Talbott is charged in the killings of 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook.

Authorities say they used information from public genealogy websites to pinpoint Talbott as a suspect then arrested him after getting a DNA sample from a cup that fell from his truck. Police say the genealogist used information uploaded by distant cousins to narrow their search to Talbott.

You can read more about the case in an article by Caleb Hutton in the Herald.Net at http://bit.ly/2JL1Wfo.

My thanks to the several newsletter readers who told me about this latest arrest.

Father and Daughter Reunited on The Today Show thanks to MyHeritage DNA

Sarah, from California (now living in the Netherlands) was placed in adoptive care as young child by her mother. To try and find her biological family, she took a MyHeritage DNA test that her husband purchased for her. She was shocked when she got a match to her biological father, Arland, who didn’t even know she existed.

Sarah and Arland then spoke on the phone numerous times, but today was the first time in 41 years they met in the Today Show with Megyn Kelly television program. He also met two of his grandchildren that he previously did not know existed.

You can watch the reunion in the video player above or in the YouTube web site at https://youtu.be/nkUt3XupQdU.

 

DNA: Heredity or Hoax?

Don’t believe everything you read. In fact, don’t believe everything you pay for either.

In Canada, there are major benefits to being able to prove Aboriginal People ancestry.

NOTE: Aboriginal People is one term for what we used to call native North American Indians or Eskimos although those terms have recently been replaced with Native Canadians or Aboriginal Canadians. See http://bit.ly/2JPniVe for a list of some of the benefits of Aboriginal Canadian ancestry.

It seems that one Toronto-based laboratory that tests people’s DNA to determine their ancestry has been caught providing “proof” of such ancestry, even when the DNA doesn’t prove it. The scam was caught when one Canadian became suspicious and submitted a DNA sample from his girlfriend’s dog for analysis.

The results from DNA testing company Viaguard Accu-Metrics “proved” that Snoopy the Chihuahua has 20 per cent Native American ancestry: 12 per cent Abenaki and eight per cent Mohawk.

How a Legal Brawl Between Two Rich Guys Could Change How We Think About DNA

Warning: I had to read this article several times before I understood it. To say it is a twisted tale is an understatement. I am still not certain I understand all of it. The story involves a lawsuit that could only happen in Florida. Yet it could also set a precedent that will alter laws about DNA nationwide.

Toronto businessman Harold Peerenboom and Marvel Entertainment chairman Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter were locked in an absurd suburban skirmish, bickering over who should run the tennis center at Sloan’s Curve, the exclusive Palm Beach waterfront community where both men resided. The legal battle took a rather unexpected turn when the lawyers for Peerenboom surreptitiously obtained a DNA sample from a water bottle that both Mr. and Mrs. Perlmutter had used inside the courtroom.

In 2016, the Perlmutters countersued Peerenboom, his attorney, and the forensic lab for “conversion.” Conversion is roughly the civil court equivalent of theft. The Perlmutters were alleging that Peerenboom and his attorney had effectively stolen their DNA and the information contained within the DNA sample.

Small Genealogy Website GEDmatch ‘Never Expected’ Its Criminal-Catching Use

From an article by Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic:

“Ever since investigators revealed that a genealogy website led police to arrest a man as California’s notorious Golden State Killer, interest in using genealogy to solve crimes has exploded. DNA from more than 100 crime scenes has been uploaded to the same genealogy site. A second man, linked to a double murder in Washington state, has been arrested. This is likely only the beginning.”

Also:

At 72 Years of Age, Two Women Learn They Were Switched at Birth

In the early morning hours of December 19, 1945, at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, two baby girls were born: Denice Mary Mayer at 2:17 a.m. and Linda Jean Nielsen, 31 minutes later.

Recent DNA tests confirm Denice Juneski and Linda Jourdeans were then switched at birth.  How exactly they were switched, is probably lost to the ages.

Family photos offer anecdotal support for the DNA’s scientific conclusion. Linda, the redhead, is pictured growing up in a family of blondes – while Denice, the blonde, is surrounded by brunettes and redheads in pictures with her siblings and cousins.

Genealogy Databases and the Future of Criminal Investigation

Science Magazine has published a thought-provoking article about the use of public DNA databases by the use of law enforcement officials. The introduction to the article by Natalie Ram, Christi J. Guerrini, and Amy L. McGuire states:

“The search of a nonforensic database for law enforcement purposes has caught public attention, with many wondering how common such searches are, whether they are legal, and what consumers can do to protect themselves and their families from prying police eyes. Investigators are already rushing to make similar searches of GEDmatch in other cases, making ethical and legal inquiry into such use urgent.”

The article also considers issues that seem to violate the U.S. Constitution, such as the following:

Need a Little Extra Money? You’ll Soon be Able to Sell and Rent Your DNA

NOTE: I don’t think I will be the first person to sign up for this. In fact, I won’t sign up at all. However, I like to report all the news and this does qualify as “news.” You can decide for yourself whether or not you support this new business venture. I won’t.

Consumers will soon be able to sell or rent their DNA to scientists who are trying to fight diseases as different as dementia, lupus and leukemia. Bio-brokers want to collect everything from someone’s 23andMe and Ancestry.com gene data to fully sequenced genomes. The data would be sold or rented to biomedical institutes, universities and pharmaceutical companies, generating money for consumers who share their genetic secrets.

Experts Outline Ethics Issues With Use of Genealogy DNA to Solve Crimes

I recently wrote about two different “cold cases” where murderers allegedly have been identified and arrested by using information found on the publicly-available genealogy DNA site at GEDmatch.com.

(See http://bit.ly/2J0dHye and http://bit.ly/2LPaSOs for my past articles.)

Privacy advocates and many others have since questioned the legality of using the information for law enforcement purposes. Admittedly, the information is publicly available for all to see. The genealogists who contributed the information did so willingly and presumably gave permission for the family DNA to be available to all. However, the relatives of the uploading genealogists may or may not have given permission for THEIR personal DNA information to be made available to the public. After all, it isn’t the DNA of any one individual; it is indeed the family’s DNA information. Not all family members have agreed to having that information made available to genealogists, law enforcement personnel, insurance companies, and worldwide hackers alike.

In the past, a court order was required for law enforcement personnel to legitimately invade the privacy of an individual or a family. The public information made available on GEDmatch seems to circumvent the legal protections of having a judge review the intent of law enforcement personnel. Are we giving up some of our liberties and privacy protections by making such information available?

A Report in Wired Claims 23AndMe is Suing Ancestry Over Some Ancient Intellectual Property

This is a follow-up to the earlier article, 23andMe Sues Ancestry.com With a Patent Suit Concerning DNA Kits, that I published at http://bit.ly/2L9ewBC.

A new article by Megan Molteni in the Wired web site provides an insight into the details of 23AndMe’s recent lawsuit against Ancestry.com. Amongst other things, it says:

“Earlier this month, Ancestry’s chief competitor in the genetic genealogy game, 23andMe, filed a lawsuit in California federal district court, alleging that Ancestry infringed on its patented method for identifying relatives from tidbits of DNA. 23andMe also accused its rival of false advertising, and asked the court to nullify the trademarked “Ancestry” name, arguing that the word has become a generic term used by other companies in the field (including 23andMe).”

It also states:

Maybe DNA Can’t Answer All Our Questions About Heredity

Megan Molteni has published an interesting article in the Wired web site that looks at DNA, describing some of things it can do as well as some of the things it cannot do. For instance:

“Heredity is a powerful concept. It’s the thing that ties families together—that gives shape to their shared history of stories, of homes, of personalities. And more and more, it’s the way we understand families’ shared genetic inheritance. But that more modern biological notion of heredity comes with some new, technical baggage: It’s easier to talk about the high blood pressure that runs in your family than it is to discern the alleles that define it, all the meiotic divisions that had to occur before that trait was passed down to you. And misunderstanding the role DNA does or doesn’t play in determining one’s fate can have dangerous consequences.”

Legend of Loch Ness Monster will be Tested with DNA Samples

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy but it does concern DNA, something of interest to many genealogists.

For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland’s Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths. University of Otago (New Zealand) professor Neil Gemmell says he’s no believer in Nessie, but he wants to take people on an adventure and communicate some science along the way.

Gemmell said that when creatures move about in water, they leave behind tiny fragments of DNA. It comes from their skin, feathers, scales and urine. He said his team will take 300 samples of water from different points around the lake and at different depths. They will filter the organic material and extract the DNA, he said, sequencing it by using technology originally created for the human genome project. He said the DNA results will then be compared against a database of known species. He said they should have answers by the end of the year.

Details may be found in an Associated Press article at: http://bit.ly/2GIB9KA.

GEDmatch Again Used to Identify a Suspected Murderer

Investigators in Washington state recently used the same technique that earlier identified the suspected Golden State Killer. (You can read my earlier article about the “Golden State Killer” at http://bit.ly/2khfe4a.) Investigators have now used genetic genealogy to connect a 55-year-old Seattle area man to the rape and murder of a woman more than 30 years ago.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state said it was able to link William Earl Talbott II to the November 1987 slaying of Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, by matching DNA found at the crime scene to data in the public GEDmatch genealogy website.

The suspect previously did not have a criminal record and was unknown to law enforcement personnel. “He was never on any list law enforcement had, there was never a tip providing his name,” Snohomish County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Scharf said at a news conference, the Seattle Times reported. “If it hadn’t been for genetic genealogy, we wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Some Genealogy Sites Closing Due to EU’s General Data Protection Regulation

The following is a message posted to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies’ mailing list by Jan Meisels Allen:

The IAJGS Records Access Alert has written about the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) numerous times—including how in the Netherlands they are removing certain genealogically-relevant documents from their website due to the GDPR. The GDPR becomes effective May 25, 2018

In DNAeXplained-Genetic Genealogy by Roberta Estes she reports that several genealogical firms are also closing down due to the privacy provisions of and compliance with the GDPR:

A new DNA Matrix Chart is now Available in Charting Companion

Progeny Genealogy has introduced a new chart in its popular Charting Companion software that provides a simple way to visualize DNA test results, in the context of a Descendant chart.

The DNA Matrix combines a genealogy database (Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Legacy, etc.) with the CSV match files that result from DNA tests. It shows the amount of DNA shared by people in the family tree. It can highlight errors, or confirm hypotheses.

23andMe Sues Ancestry.com With a Patent Suit Concerning DNA Kits

According to an article in Law360.com at http://bit.ly/2IeBKZV:

Law360 (May 11, 2018, 7:49 PM EDT) — Genealogy company 23andMe Inc. hit rival Ancestry.com with a false advertising and patent infringement lawsuit in California federal court on Friday, seeking to invalidate its “Ancestry” trademark and claiming the company sells a DNA-based ancestry test that infringes 23andMe’s patent.

The suit accuses the Utah-based Ancestry.com of infringing its patent since 2013 by selling AncestryDNA kits that identify a person’s relatives who share parts of their DNA. 23andMe also claims that Ancestry.com has been misleading customers by running a “perpetual sale” and by falsely claiming in ads that it tests five times more regions than its rivals.

“Defendants’ repeated pattern of false and misleading advertising has caused, and will continue to cause irreparable injury to 23andMe’s reputation, goodwill and business, if not enjoined,” the suit says.

The complete article with all the details may be found at: http://bit.ly/2IeBKZV. To read the entire article, you must register on the site and provide your name and email address. However, registration is free and will provide seven days’ access to the articles on the site.

Introducing the Health Family Tree

I am surprised that not all the genealogy and DNA web sites and genealogy programs do this. It certainly should be a major concern for every family. The following is an excerpt from a new entry in the MyHeritage Blog:

We are happy to release a new layer to your family history experience on MyHeritage: the Health Family Tree. This is a free feature, currently in beta mode and initially available to all MyHeritage users who have taken a MyHeritage DNA test or uploaded DNA data to MyHeritage, and who manage a family tree with at least 7 people in it. It will be made available later to many more users.

Overview

The Health Family Tree is a private and secure area on your MyHeritage family site, intended to help you document the health conditions of your close family members, both living and deceased, in one convenient place. You can then share this information (if you wish) as a printout. The motivation is simple: you’ll be able to communicate to healthcare professionals more efficiently information about health conditions that run in your family.

NIH Seeks One Million Volunteers for Medical DNA Database

This article isn’t about genealogy but it does concern DNA, a tool used by many genealogists. I suspect many genealogists will be interested in this:

“The National Institutes of Health has begun recruiting volunteers for a $1.46 billion medical database that will eventually comprise data on more than one million people, an effort to discern the genetic underpinnings of a range of diseases and even of healthy aging.

“The endeavor by the nation’s leading government medical-research entity is aimed at deciphering the workings of poorly understood maladies ranging from cancers to migraines to dementia. The database will be open to medical researchers and will initially consist of data on volunteers age 18 and up, regardless of health status. Children will be eligible beginning in 2019 if their parents or guardians consent.

DNA that Cracked the ‘Golden State Killer’ Case came from Genealogy Websites

According to officials, DNA from genealogy websites led to the arrest of the suspected “Golden State Killer,” Joseph James DeAngelo. Following the news, Ancestry websites 23andMe and Ancestry.com quickly released statements on the findings, saying mainly that they do not know if their services aided in the arrest of DeAngelo or not.

Investigators knew the killer only through a string of DNA recorded at several of the dozen murder scenes. A spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said officials had struggled for years to figure out whom that DNA belonged to. Recently, they tapped genealogical databases that the public uses to search for relatives and ancestors.

You can read more and watch a video from KGO-TV about this news at: http://abc7ne.ws/2HtOr2B and a somewhat different view of the same story, including a different video, on the WSLS News web site at http://bit.ly/2JuzVEl.