How 23andMe Will Mine its Giant DNA Database for Health and Wealth

Since the launch of DNA testing service 23andMe, around 10 million people have spit a half-teaspoon of saliva into a 23andMe plastic tube and mailed it in to get their ancestry or health-risk results. Nearly 5 million customers did so last year alone, generating an estimated $475 million in revenue for the company, which has yet to turn a profit. It’s also made CEO Anne Wojcicki (No. 33 on this year’s list of Richest Self-Made Women) worth an estimated $690 million, almost entirely from her roughly 30% stake in 23andMe, which is valued at $2.5 billion by investors.

While it might make interesting cocktail conversation to reveal that you are 5% Scandinavian and have a genetic disposition to sneeze in the sun, 23andMe’s ambitions are much grander.

National Geographic Society’s Genographic DNA Project to Shut Down

The National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project is shutting down. The project’s web site at https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/ states:

Genographic Project Update

The Genographic Project was launched in 2005 as a research project in collaboration with scientists and universities around the world with a goal of revealing patterns of human migration. Since then, nearly 1 million people have participated in The Genographic Project through National Geographic’s “Geno” DNA Ancestry kits. The public participation phase of this research project is ending and, as a result, effective May 31, 2019, Geno 2.0 DNA Ancestry kits are no longer available for purchase. If you have already purchased a kit, you may still send it in for processing in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of sale.

The Reasons Why GEDmatch Recently Changed Its Terms of Service

GEDmatch is a popular genealogy web site that contains more than 1.2 million completed DNA kits. It was used by many genealogists and, more recently, by law enforcement officials, most of whom were working on “cold cases” involving violent crimes, such as rape and murder. Use of GEDmatch first helped solve the so-called Golden State Killer case last April through a new forensic technique known as genetic genealogy. That case was soon followed by a number of other identification of the perpetrators of past crimes.

However, there was one problem: GEDMatch’s own terms of service didn’t allow police to use the site for assault cases or any other crimes that involve less serious crimes. Even worse, legal issues arose because the site did not have the informed consent of its users to make an exception to the terms of service.

23andMe is Updating Ancestry Results Without Telling Users

An article by Dan Robitzski in the Futurism.com web site at https://futurism.com/23andme-updating-ancestry-results states:

“If you took a genetic ancestry test through a company like 23andMe, you may want to go back and give your results a second look.

“That’s because as the company gathers more data and learns more about genetic trends, it may update the results for your specific DNA and change around where it believes your family came from, according to STAT News. While it makes sense that these companies would eventually hone in on more accurate results, the shifting reports can be a rude shock to people who used the app to figure out their personal identity — only to find, like 23andMe user Leonard Kim, that the results later shift without warning.”

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads this newsletter. I wrote an article a few weeks ago that describes the same thing with Ancestry.com’s test results: the company’s DNA ethnic origins reports changed as more and more information was added to the company’s findings of ethnic origins. You can find my earlier report at http://bit.ly/2DN6o8y and a follow-up article at http://bit.ly/2HxniKH.

Airbnb Partners With 23andMe to Make It Easier for People to Get In Touch With Their Roots

I am not sure I understand the logic of this. Perhaps Airbnb wants to promote genealogy research trips under the assumption that many of those traveling will stay in Airbnb-advertised guest facilities and also might have their DNA tested by 23andMe.

In any case, Airbnb and DNA-testing company 23andMe announced on Tuesday the two companies have partnered to help people “connect with their ancestry” through a heritage travel program.

An announcement by Jennings Brown on the Gizmodo web site cautions:

GEDmatch Implements Required Opt-In for Law Enforcement Matching

GEDmatch is an open data personal genomics database and genealogy website founded in 2010 by Curtis Rogers and John Olson. Its main purpose is to help “amateur and professional researchers and genealogists,” including adoptees searching for birth parents. However, it recently has also become “the de facto DNA and genealogy database for all of law enforcement,” according to The Atlantic’s Sarah Zhang.

GEDmatch recently gained a lot of publicity after it was used by law enforcement officials to identify a suspect in the Golden State Killer case in California. Other law enforcement agencies started using GEDmatch for violent crimes, making it one of the most powerful tools available for identifying “cold case” criminals.

Sadly, the same site also has generated a lot of controversy involving the lack of privacy of personal DNA information, both for the people who uploaded their own DNA data and especially for the relatives of the uploaders whose DNA information also was included without their permission and usually without their knowledge. Such blatant disregard for personal privacy may be a violation of privacy laws in many countries.

The GEDmatch owners have now tightened the web site’s rules on privacy. The result is expected to make it much more difficult for law enforcement agencies to find suspects.

Announcing the MyHeritage DNA Health  and Ancestry Test

The following announcement was written by MyHeritage. You can also read more details and look at a number of additional images in the MyHeritage Blog at https://blog.myheritage.com/2019/05/introducing-the-myheritage-dna-health-ancestry-test/.

MyHeritage Expands to Health; Launches New DNA Test Offering Powerful and Personalized Health Insights for Consumers

The new MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry test provides comprehensive health reports for conditions affected by genetics including heart disease, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah—MyHeritage, the leading global service for family history and DNA testing, announced today a major expansion of its DNA product line with the launch of the MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry test. The test provides a new dimension of genetic insight with comprehensive health reports that can empower future health and lifestyle choices. It is a superset of the current MyHeritage DNA Ancestry-Only test, and includes its pillar features: a percentage breakdown of ethnic origins and matching to relatives through shared DNA. MyHeritage is now the only global consumer DNA company to offer an extensive health and ancestry product in over 40 languages.

Follow-up: Ancestry.com is under Fire as new DNA Algorithm Drastically Changes the Ethnicity of Some Users

The following is a follow-up to my previous article at: http://bit.ly/2DN6o8y:

In the earlier article, I wrote:

“Ancestry.com is updating its databases and altering the results for some users. The new findings of ethnic origins has sent some users into a full-blown identity crisis. If you previously had your DNA tested by Ancestry and have already found your family’s ethnic origins, you might want to go back to the AncestryDNA web site and check again. The results may have changed.”

Some readers posted comments posted at the end of the article by newsletter readers questioned whether or not this was a new update to Ancestry.com’s DNA databases. However, that question seems to be cleared up by the following information written by the Ancestry Team and published in the Ancestry Blog at https://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2019/05/02/understanding-your-new-ethnicity-estimate/ on May 2, 2019:

Findmypast DNA Test Available For Just $59 in Mother’s Day Sale

The following announcement was written by Findmypast:

  • Save $30 on a Findmypast DNA kit for Mother’s Day 2019
  • Currently available to buy at findmypast.com/ancestry-dna-testing/ – for just $59
  • Full 3-in-1 upgrade also available for an additional $20 – discounted from $29

Find out what Mum is really made of with a discount on Findmypast DNA testing kits.

Findmypast DNA – the only test specifically designed to help make British & Irish family history discoveries – is currently on sale at Findmypast for just $59.00 (USD) in celebration of Mother’s Day 2019.

The limited time offer will be available to all who visit findmypast.com/ancestry-dna-testing/ before Monday May 13th. Order today to ensure your kit arrives by May 12th.

Leonardo’s Hair to be DNA Tested

Italian experts have found what they say is hair from Leonardo da Vinci and are set to do a DNA test on the Renaissance genius’s locks.

You can read more in an article in the ANSA.it at: http://bit.ly/2DI2P3t.

My thanks to newsletter reader Neil Barmann for telling me about this story.

Ancestry.com is under Fire as new DNA Algorithm Drastically Changes the Ethnicity of Some Users

It may be time to trade in your German lederhosen for a Scottish kilt!

Ancestry.com is updating its databases and altering the results for some users. The new findings of ethnic origins has sent some users into a full-blown identity crisis. If you previously had your DNA tested by Ancestry and have already found your family’s ethnic origins, you might want to go back to the AncestryDNA web site and check again. The results may have changed.

Some patrons are seeing their prior genetic and ethnic histories undergo an entire transformation, leading users to somewhat jarring realizations.

You can read more in an article by Liam Mannix and Alexandra Gauci in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald at: http://bit.ly/2vvGdig.

Comment by DickEastman:

Ancestry.com Sued for ‘Misleading’ Customers About DNA Data

Genealogy information provider Ancestry.com has a “longstanding practice” of failing to get sufficient informed consent agreements from customers who submit medical and DNA information, a new lawsuit alleges.

Lori Collett sued the Utah-based company’s subsidiaries—Ancestry.com DNA LLC and Ancestry.com Inc.—for allegedly “misleading and deceiving patients in California and across the country about what Ancestry was actually doing with their DNA.”

Bloomberg news has a brief radio report about the lawsuit at http://bit.ly/2VAn7Gt.

Ancestry’s IPO Talk Shows How Consumer DNA Testing Has Matured

Anastasia Ustinova is a freelance business writer based in Seattle who often writes about business news. She has now written about Ancestry.com’s rumored future IPO, focusing on the popularity of home DNA kits that enable consumers to uncover secrets of their ancestry and health risks.

Ustinova sees good financial news in Ancestry.com‘s future. She writes, “Direct-to-consumer DNA testing sales are projected to reach $310 million by 2022 from $99 million in 2017, according to market researcher Kalorama Information.”

She also has a short quote from me in her article.

You can read Anastasia Ustinova’s article in the Karma Network web site at: http://bit.ly/2Duxm4L.

Newly Discovered DNA Quirk Could Reveal Mysteries of Newfoundland’s First Settlers

A Newfoundland genealogist has stumbled onto a rare and mysterious DNA quirk that he says could tell the untold story of the island’s first European settlers. David Pike, a mathematics professor and genealogist, said the rare mitochondrial DNA profile caught his attention over a decade ago when it began popping up frequently in test results for a Newfoundland and Labrador genealogy project.

The profile — called H5a5, plus another unnamed mutation — is likely European in origin. Only a handful of people from Europe — fewer than 10 — have been found to test positive for the specific profile, and almost all those have roots in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Book Review: Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies
Edited by Debbie Parker Wayne. Published by Wayne Research (Cushing Texas). 2019. 382 pages.

When you’ve moved beyond reading the beginner how-to-do-DNA-genealogy books, this will be the next book for you to pick up.

Advanced is unequivocally for the intermediate and advanced DNA researcher. If you’re new to the subject, acquire a solid foundation of DNA analysis skills first. Then you can tackle this book’s higher-level focus on the analysis DNA results, the integration of your work with the principles of the Genealogy Proof Standard, and some essays on the emotion of DNA results, of how DNA discoveries may affect some personal and family relationships in unexpected ways.

This is a tough book, but if you’re serious about DNA analysis and credibility, then you can’t work without it.

Test Your Dog’s DNA

Why should humans be the only ones to test their DNA in order to discover their family trees? Shouldn’t ALL family members be tested? After all, your dog is practically a family member also, right?

Seriously, several companies are now offering DNA test kits for dogs. With a simple cheek swab, you reportedly can identify your pet’s canine ancestry, including from wolf, coyote, or village dog ancestry.

Here is a quote from Embark, one of the companies selling a $129 US canine DNA test kit on Amazon:

Should Genealogy Websites be BANNED because they ‘Threaten the Anonymity of Sperm Donors?’

The world today is struggling with learning to use advancing technology and also with all sorts of issues dealing with personal privacy. Sometimes those new ideas are diametrically opposed. For instance, which is more important: the right to learn about your ancestry, especially when inherited medical issues are involved, or the right to personal privacy?

A bioethics expert at Ghent University in Belgium claims that personal privacy outweighs the right to know who your ancestors are.

Men in the United Kingdom were allowed to donate sperm anonymously until 2005 and could now have their identities discovered by people researching their family trees. This, according to Professor Guido Pennings, a bioethicist at Ghent University in Belgium, constitutes a violation of the father’s privacy. He made the comments in the scientific journal Human Reproduction.

In the article in Human Reproduction, Guido Pennings writes:

Press Release – Free DNA Test For Leiden Pilgrim Descendants

The following announcement was written by Tamura Jones:

LEIDEN – 19 April 2019
On Thursday 25 April (DNA Day), genealogy expert Tamura Jones will organise a large-scale DNA Test of Pilgrim descendants in Leiden, the Netherlands. Such investigation has not been done before, not even in America. The goal is to try and discover something interesting about the group and their ancestors.

Mayflower Pilgrims

The Mayflower departed from Plymouth, but the Pilgrims came from Leiden, a city they called home for more than a decade. When they left for the New World, they took Dutch ideas such as religious tolerance and civil marriage with them. Thanksgiving even has roots in Leiden’s 3 October Celebrations, the annual commemoration of the Relief of Leiden in 1574.

Nowadays, Leiden does not only celebrate 3 October, but has an annual Thanksgiving Service as well. This Thanksgiving Service is held in the late-Gothic Pieterskerk (Peter’s Church), where the Pilgrim’s pastor, John Robinson, was buried. Two Mayflower descendants speak during this service, an American descendant and a Dutch descendant.

Searching for Descendants in Leiden

Scammers May Be Using DNA Testing to Defraud Medicare and Steal Identities

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy, history, or any of the other “normal” topics of this newsletter. However, it involves DNA which is of interest to many genealogists so I am mentioning it here.

If anyone offers to test your DNA free of charge or even offers to pay you $20 for DNA swabs and supplying your health insurance information, don’t do it!

Details may be found in an article by Kristen V Brown in the Bloomberg web site at: https://bloom.bg/2GmCY1D.

Researchers Want to Link Your Genes to Your Income but Should They?

The UK Biobank is the single largest public genetic repository in the world, with samples of the genetic blueprints of half a million Brits standing by for scientific study. But when David Hill, a statistical geneticist at the University of Edinburgh, went poring through that data, he wasn’t looking for a cure for cancer or deeper insights into the biology of aging. Nothing like that. He was trying to figure out why some people make more money than others.

Hill and like-minded colleagues are working on a science they call sociogenomics. There are many useful uses for the information. For instance, a “genetic income score” could allow economists and epidemiologists to more precisely investigate fundamental questions about inequality.

However, there is a dark side to the information found: