DNA

Over the Next Several Months, AncestryDNA Customers May Receive Updated Ethnicity Estimates and That’s a Good Thing

The team of scientists at AncestryDNA have increased the company’s reference panel to more than double its previous size with DNA samples from more places around the world, resulting in the latest update to AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates. In short, with more detailed data to work with today, the company can now provide more accurate locations of your ancestors. This means there may be some changes to the results you received earlier.

The expanded AncestryDNA reference panel helps deliver even more precise regions in West Africa, northwestern Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and Southeast Asia.

Quoting from the announcement in the AncestryDNA Blog:

Ancestry’s DNA Health Screening Will Require a Doctor’s Order from PWNHealth, an Independent Network of Board-Certified Physicians and Genetic Counselors

Ancestry said Tuesday that its new consumer health tests (described in an earlier article in this newsletter at https://tinyurl.com/eogn191017) will require authorization by a physician.

As mentioned in the original announcement: “Ancestry has partnered with PWNHealth, an independent network of board-certified physicians and genetic counselors, to offer these services, which are included in both AncestryHealth Core and AncestryHealth Plus.”

Ancestry Chief Executive Officer Margo Georgiadis says the company wanted to focus on providing ways for its tests to integrate easily into the care patients receive from their regular doctors.

AncestryHealth Announces Genotype and Next Generation Genetic Sequencing Services

The following announcement was written by Ancestry:

LEHI, Utah & SAN FRANCISCO – (Oct. 15, 2019) – For more than 30 years, Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, has built innovative services that empower millions of people to make more meaningful discoveries about themselves and their families. First with family history, then through DNA and today, with the introduction of AncestryHealth®. AncestryHealth is a long-term commitment to making a difference in preventive health through personalized and actionable insights.

Through a highly supportive and guided experience, AncestryHealth services deliver actionable insights that can empower people to take proactive steps — in collaboration with their healthcare provider — to address potential health risks identified in their genes and family health history. In a recent AncestryDNA® customer survey, 83 percent of respondents said they are looking for new ways to improve their health and 89 percent said it is critical for their children to learn about improving their health.

Responsible Genetic Genealogy

This article provides supplemental information to my earlier article, Your Comments are Requested Concerning an Interim Policy Concerning Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching, that is available at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn101011.

Quoting an article by Thomas F. Callaghan in the ScienceMag.org web site:

“The scientific development of forensic genetic genealogy (FGG), which couples genetic analysis with investigation of publicly available genealogy information, has successfully transformed law enforcement investigations by solving more than 50 cases over the last 18 months in the United States. However, use of FGG by law enforcement has preceded widespread development of best practices to protect the genetic privacy of private citizens who have voluntarily submitted samples to genealogy databases. Absent best practices, use of FGG could lead to compromised cases, diminished use, or the loss of this new investigative tool. Public support for FGG could be jeopardized and confidence in forensic DNA analysis could be undermined. As the custodian of a national law enforcement DNA database (CODIS), the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looked to by many in the law enforcement and forensic DNA communities for guidance, and its efforts often influence the global community. The emergence of FGG suggests that further discussions on privacy, genomics, and the use of genealogy by law enforcement would be beneficial. Accordingly, the FBI seeks to engage the scientific and bioethics communities in such a dialogue.

Your Comments are Requested Concerning an Interim Policy Concerning Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching

The following is an IAJGS Public Records Access Alert:

I would encourage those who are interested in forensic genetic genealogy and law enforcement access to submit comments to forensicgenealogy@fbi.gov before November 1, when their interim policy becomes effective.

To read the interim policy go to:

U.S. Department of Justice, Interim Policy on Forensic Genetic Genealogical DNA Analysis and Searching (2019); https://www.justice.gov/olp/page/file/1204386/download

23andMe’s New VIP Service Includes a One-On-One Chat to Explain your DNA

23andMe just added a third purchasing option for those who want a little bit more.

The new VIP Health + Ancestry Service delivers more options for customers, including concierge-like services. The VIP service bundles together one 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service kit, with a companion kit, overnight shipping, and priority lab processing.

Doctor Sues Fertility Clinic After Discovering He Has At Least 17 Unknown Children From Sperm He Donated Decades Ago

Were you and your spouse or significant other both born in the Portland, Oregon area about 30 years ago? If so, you both might want to have your DNA tested to see if perhaps you are closer relatives than you previously thought you were.

An Oregon doctor is suing a fertility clinic after discovering that sperm he donated wasn’t used the way he wanted. Dr. Bryce Cleary discovered that he has at least 17 unknown children after donating sperm three decades ago.

Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter and Gene By Gene Join Forces to Shape the Future of Investigative Genetic Genealogy

The following announcement was written by Gene By Gene, the parent company of FamilyTreeDNA:

Barbara Rae-Venter, PhD

HOUSTON, Sept. 27, 2019 — Genetic genealogist Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter, recognized for her groundbreaking work in the Golden State Killer case, named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019, and Nature’s 10 people who mattered in science in 2018, has been named Director of Gene By Gene’s newly formed Investigative Genetic Genealogy Unit.

Gene By Gene, known in the direct-to-consumer business as FamilyTreeDNA, was the first company to market direct-to-consumer DNA testing, and first to provide familial matching through a person’s DNA signature. “Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter pioneered law enforcement’s most revolutionary crime-solving tool since the fingerprint,” says president and founder, Bennett Greenspan. “We are excited to have a genealogist of Dr. Rae-Venter’s caliber working with us to set industry-leading standards for investigative genetic genealogy.”

The Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Sexual Assault Kit Task Force Pilot Program to Perform Genealogical Database Searches to Identify Rapists

Cuyahoga County will use a new federal grant to hire a private lab to conduct genealogical searches in hopes of identifying up to 10 “John Doe” rape suspects. Since 2013, the prosecutor’s office has secured 146 “John Doe” indictments based on DNA profiles found in rape kits that did not result in a hit or match identifying a suspect.

The genealogical pilot project will be paid for with a federal grant, which is one of two that total $3 million. The grants were awarded to the prosecutor’s office, which leads the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, by the U.S. Department of Justice. The grants also will allow the task force to complete more than 1,200 sexual assault investigations that remain open, including paying for training, victim advocacy, research and travel expenses.

You can read more in an article by Rachel Dissell in The Plain Dealer web site at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn191002.

The Messy Consequences of DNA and the Golden State Killer Case

From an article by Sarah Zhang in the highly-respected The Atlantic web site:

“Tools meant to reunite families are now being used essentially to get families to put their members in jail.”

While few of us anticipated the intersection of genealogical DNA databases and police cases, many of us were intrigued when the combined efforts of law enforcement and a genealogist resulted in the identification of the suspected Golden State Killer last year. Now that precedent has opened the field to other cases, questions arise surrounding the ethical and legal aspects of these unforeseen applications.

Here are a few other quotes from the same article:

“Police officers were uploading crime-scene DNA to genealogical databases without any formal oversight, and prominent genealogists disagreed bitterly on how far they should be let in. The debate became so toxic that genealogy groups on Facebook banned any discussion of law enforcement. Decades-old accusations—unrelated to genealogy—were dragged up to discredit vocal members. People were blocked. Friendships ended. At a genealogy conference in June, the different sides ignored each other from opposite ends of the bar.”

MyHeritage DNA Uncover Rugby Legends Origins

The following announcement was written by MyHeritage:

As the biggest rugby event of the year gets underway in Japan, we wanted to share an exciting project we’ve been working on. In the run-up to the tournament, we brought together 4 rugby legends to see if they share more in common than a love of rugby and to find out if their DNA comes from places other than the countries they represented for so many years.

Rugby DNA website

Each of the players took a MyHeritage DNA test, and we brought them together to reveal their ethnicity breakdown, information about their DNA Matches, and share some family history research that we uncovered, including historical records and photos of their ancestors.

4 RUGBY LEGENDS UNCOVER THEIR ORIGINS WITH MYHERITAGE DNA

U.S. Justice Department Sets Rules for Using Genealogy Sites to Solve Crimes

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has released new rules governing when police can use genetic genealogy to track down suspects in serious crimes—the first-ever policy covering how these databases, popular among amateur genealogists, should be used in law enforcement attempts to balance public safety and privacy concerns.

The policy generally limits law enforcement to considering genealogy sites when a candidate sample belongs to a possible culprit, or when a likely homicide victim is unidentified. Prosecutors can greenlight the use of these sites for violent crimes beyond murder and sexual assault, but only when the circumstances create a “substantial and ongoing threat” to the public. Agencies can’t use the sites unless a sample has first been uploaded to the FBI’s DNA profile database and hasn’t produced a match. Also, the investigators in the relevant jurisdiction need to have followed “reasonable investigative leads,” and case info need to be entered into national databases for missing people and violent criminals.

As Made-To-Order DNA Gets Cheaper, Keeping It Out Of The Wrong Hands Gets Harder

Researching one’s DNA ancestry is a fascinating project. Studying your own DNA or the DNA of your close relatives can be life-saving. However, MODIFYING the DNA of anyone or anything is a very scary topic! Even though it sounds like science fiction, DNA modifications are already being done and undoubtedly this field of science is going to expand.

Details may be found in an article by Nell Greenfield-Byce in the NPR web site at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn190924a.

DNAtix Launches Free Anonymous Genetic Vault

The following is a press release written by Digital DNAtix Ltd.:

Digital DNAtix Ltd., the Israeli cyber genetics startup, has announced the first free anonymous genetic vault service. DNAtix developed the Cyber Genetics Smart Platform for Digital Genetics. Lack of privacy is currently a barrier for so many people who want to have their DNA tested but are afraid to give their genetic data away. As of today anyone can anonymously upload their raw file from 23&Me and Ancestry.com onto the DNAtix platform.

Tel Aviv, Israel, September 17, 2019Digital DNAtix Ltd., the Israeli cyber genetics startup, has announced the first free anonymous genetic vault service.

Lack of privacy is currently a barrier for so many people who want to have their DNA tested but are afraid to give their genetic data away. As of today anyone can anonymously upload their raw file from 23&Me and Ancestry.com onto the DNAtix platform and receive the following benefits:

Genetic Testing Scam Preys on Seniors’ Cancer Fears and May Be Costing Taxpayers Millions

This article is slightly “off topic.” That is, the article is not about genealogy, history, or related topics. However, I know many readers of this newsletter are interested in all sorts of DNA-related topics so I am publishing a link to an article about a DNA-related scam that has become popular in recent weeks. You need to be aware of this and perhaps you should also warn your friends who have not yet heard about this scam.

A story in the CBS News web site tells of a scam that recently victimized a pair of retirees from Austin, Texas:

“There was a couple of people in there saying ‘come get your DNA tested,'” Judy recalled. The company, Genexe Health, billed itself as a genetic testing “one-stop shop.” With a quick cheek swab, the Johnson’s could learn if they carried any genes that made a cancer diagnosis more likely.

The Missing Piece, the MyHeritage Original Documentary that had its World Premiere this Past Weekend at the MyHeritage Live in Amsterdam is now Available to Watch Online

The Missing Piece is a powerful and inspiring film about hope and discovery. I wrote about it in this newsletter last week and you can read my article at: https://blog.eogn.com/2019/09/06/an-update-from-myheritage-live-2019-day-1/.It tells the incredible story of two sisters, both abandoned as children, overcoming insurmountable odds to discover who they are and where they come from. It’s also a moving testament to the meaningful discoveries being made every day through MyHeritage.

MyHeritage Acquires Promethease and SNPedia

The following press release was issued by MyHeritage today at the MyHeritage LIVE 2019 event in Amsterdam, the Netherlands:

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah –Sep 7, 2019–

MyHeritage, the leading global discovery platform for exploring family history, uncovering ethnic origins, finding new relatives, and gaining health insights, announced today the acquisition of SNPedia and Promethease, through acquiring the company that owned and operated them, River Road Bio. This marks the 10th acquisition by MyHeritage and reinforces the company’s position as a global leader in consumer genomics.

SNPedia.com was launched in 2006 and is a wiki that contains a broad, community-curated knowledge base linking between genetic variants and medical conditions, as well as traits, citing over 30,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications. SNPedia is the primary encyclopedia and de facto go-to resource for information about genetic markers, and has evolved to cover 110,413 genetic variants. SNPedia operates under a Creative Commons license, wherein it is a free resource for academic and non-commercial use, with only MyHeritage having the right to utilize it commercially. MyHeritage plans to maintain SNPedia as a free resource under the same terms, and will utilize this comprehensive knowledge base to enhance future versions of MyHeritage’s DNA health products.

Genetic Study Shows Deep Norwegian Lineage in People of Northern Scotland

I doubt if this will surprise anyone from northern Scotland as the history of what is now Scotland and Norway has been linked together for centuries. However, a new DNA study confirms what many people have long suspected.

A team of researchers from Scotland and the U.K. has found via genetic study that many people in modern Scotland are of Norwegian descent. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study and what they found.

Africa’s Largest Ancestry DNA Unveiling Takes Place in Ghana as 250 Americans Retrace 400-Year Slave Route

From the GhanaWeb site:

“Some 250 African-Americans gathered at the Cape Coast Castle, Ghana, to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship of enslaved Africans to English North America in 1619.

“While this was ongoing, tens and thousands of African-Americans had assembled at the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton, Virginia, to also commemorate the same activity.

“At an emotional ceremony at the Cape Coast Castle, one of about forty slave castles built in the Gold Coast (Ghana), over 70 families discovered their ancestry during the African Ancestry DNA reveal which is arguably the largest ever in the continent.

Hungary Has the World’s Second Largest Percentage of Population with Jewish Ancestry

A new study conducted by MyHeritage in conjunction with expert statistician and demographer Dr. Daniel Staetsky has uncovered that there are surprising numbers of people descended from Jewish ancestors in Hungary — far higher than previously estimated by demographers.