DNA Testing Links 300-Year-Old Remains of a Baby to a Colonial Maryland Governor

Much is known about the 6-month-old who died in Maryland 300 years ago and was buried in a small lead-covered coffin. Yet there is no record of the child’s death — or birth. No one knew for certain who the infant was. No one knew if the baby was a boy or girl.

Now, almost 26 years after the coffin was unearthed in St. Mary’s County, experts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have learned that the baby was a boy — and the offspring of an important colonial governor of Maryland, Philip Calvert. The discovery came about through new genetic testing done at Harvard Medical School at the request of the Smithsonian.

DNA’s new ‘Miracle’: How Adoptees are using Online Registries to Find Their Blood Relatives

The Washington Post has published an interesting article by Tara Bahrampour about adoptees using DNA to find their birth relatives, sometimes even their birth parents. The article states:

Most people who register with DNA databases are looking for information about their ethnic origins or exploring distant branches of the family tree. But the rapidly expanding databases have also had an unintended consequence: They are helping people find biological parents whose identities had long been mysteries.

DNA Detectives Volunteers Help Adoptees Find their Birth Parents

DNA Detectives is a Facebook group run by volunteers who call themselves “search angels” and who help adoptees, sperm donor kids, and others who are hunting for their biological relatives. With more than 24,000 members, DNA Detectives began in February 2015, said CeCe Moore, its founder, which she helps run from San Clemente, Calif. Moore calls herself a genetic genealogist. She consults on the PBS show “Finding Your Roots,” and her company The DNA Detectives works with with the media on stories related to DNA, promoting genetic genealogy education through conferences and seminars.


MyHeritage Now Has DNA Matching Available

MyHeritage has just announced that DNA Matching is now live!

DNA-smallerMyHeritage compares DNA data of individuals, which has been uploaded to the MyHeritage website, in order to find matches based on shared DNA. Your DNA matches are people who are highly likely to be relatives (close or distant) because there are significant similarities between their DNA and yours. MyHeritage DNA Matching can open up exciting new research directions, and allow you to find and connect with relatives you may not have known about.

The DNA matching has been available for a few months in a limited beta test but now is available to everyone. The DNA Matching is free and will remain free for those who have already uploaded their DNA test results to MyHeritage. Anyone who has taken a DNA test with other test providers, or has DNA test results from other family members, and has not uploaded them to MyHeritage yet, the company recommends they hurry and upload the DNA data now, in order to enjoy free DNA Matching on MyHeritage forever.

One Study Claims That Genetics Affects How Much You Drink

alcoholismIf you become intoxicated after one drink, blame your ancestors. Researchers at Washington State University have found that your genetic makeup affects your sensitivity to alcohol.

A receptor in our brain reportedly affects our reaction to alcohol. The protein receptor, located on cells in the cerebellum, is known as GABAA. When it’s activated, it suppresses the firing of brain cells. That leads to balance issues, stumbling, slurred speech and reduced social inhibitions. Depending upon your genetic makeup, that could happen even after one drink. For others, the receptor takes a long time to be stimulated, leading to binge drinking and alcoholism.

National Genealogical Society Publishes the First Workbook on Genetic Genealogy

The following announcement was written by the (US) National Genealogical Society:

gginpARLINGTON, VA, 6 September 2016—The National Genealogical Society (NGS) announces the publication of Genetic Genealogy in Practice, the first workbook on genetic genealogy. Written by Blaine T. Bettinger, PhD, JD, and Debbie Parker Wayne, CGSM, CGLSM, the book provides family historians and genealogists who have just begun to explore genetic genealogy practical, easy to understand information that they can apply to their research. As Wayne notes in her blog, Deb’s Delvings in Genealogy, “DNA can seem complex to many of us, but this book will guide you and help build your knowledge level one step at a time.”

At their own pace, readers learn the basic concepts of genetic genealogy. They then build on that knowledge as they study the testing, analysis, and application of Y-DNA, X-DNA, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and autosomal DNA (atDNA) to reach and support genealogical conclusions. Each chapter includes exercises with answer keys for hands-on practice.

Protecting Privacy in Genomic Databases

A recent announcement from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Indiana University at Bloomington describes a process that permits database queries for genome-wide association studies but reduces the chances of privacy compromises to almost zero.

The new system, implements a technique called “differential privacy,” which has been a major area of cryptographic research in recent years. Differential-privacy techniques add a little bit of noise, or random variation, to the results of database searches, to confound algorithms that would seek to extract private information from the results of several, tailored, sequential searches.

Quest Diagnostics to Provide Genetic Testing Services for AncestryDNA

Quest Diagnostics said today that it has signed an agreement with Ancestry.com to provide genetic testing services for the online family history firm’s consumer genomics business.

Here is the announcement from Quest Diagnostics:

Quest Diagnostics Incorporated logo. (PRNewsFoto/Quest Diagnostics Incorporated)

MADISON, N.J., and LEHI, Utah, Aug. 3, 2016 — Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, and AncestryDNA, the leader in family history and consumer genomics, are teaming up to help meet the rapidly growing consumer demand for genetic tests that provide insights into genetic ethnicity, origins and other factors. The new collaboration will allow AncestryDNA to scale its testing services and pave the way for new wellness offerings.

How British are YOU?

A recent DNA study reveals Yorkshire is the most Anglo-Saxon part of UK, while East Midlands is most Scandinavian. The people of Wales have the highest proportion of ancestry from Spain and Portugal. Anyone with at least a casual knowledge of ancient and medieval UK history probably will not be surprised by these findings.

The analysis of the genetic history of two million people worldwide by family history website Ancestry was based on data collated from the AncestryDNA home DNA test that examines a person’s entire genome via a simple saliva sample. Results reveal the genetic ethnic make-up of the ‘average’ person in the UK and what countries and regions they can trace their ancestry back to over the past 500 years.

What Can a Hacker Do with Your Genetic Information?

Apparently not much, according to an article by Kaleigh Rogers in the Motherboard web site at http://goo.gl/fYKz2A.

Rogers focuses on the idea of someone hacking into the big databases used by genealogists at 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA, and similar companies. She points out that there are easier ways to obtain someone’s DNA than by trying to hack into encrypted databases:

“Someone could hack into your account on a genetics site, or even just collect your DNA from a used coffee cup and send it away for analysis—something New Scientist reporters proved was remarkably simple back in 2009.”

New Genealogical Databases to Determine Family Cancer

The use of large family history databases to determine a person’s likelihood of developing cancer has been well received in a recent study – and further trials should be conducted to see if their use is possible in Britain and other countries, according to a new research paper co-authored by a Plymouth University academic.

Heather Skirton, Professor of Health Genetics, worked alongside Vigdis Stefansdottir from Landspitali – the National University Hospital of Iceland to carry out a study on 19 participants in focus groups in Iceland.

Geni Adds DNA to the World Family Tree

The following announcement was written by the folks at Geni. Further information is also available on the Geni blog at: https://www.geni.com/blog/geni-adds-dna-to-the-world-family-tree-394127.html

World’s largest and most accurate collaborative family tree now enhanced with three major DNA test types, and new integration with Family Tree DNA

BURBANK, California and HOUSTON, Texas, June 30, 2016 — Geni, home of the World Family Tree, announced today the addition of DNA test results into the family tree, and a new product integration with its partner Family Tree DNA. This move will improve the accuracy of the World Family Tree and provide new insights for millions of people interested in their family history.

DNA will enhance the World Family Tree by separating fact from fiction: it will help people confirm family relationships and will highlight situations where the documented genealogy does not match the biological evidence presented by DNA. DNA results will also be used for matching, in order to discover previously unknown relatives. Geni’s World Family Tree will then allow users to establish and visualize the precise family tree connection with relatives found by DNA matching.

Australia is Building a Database of Historical DNA

Australians have been called upon to donate their DNA and help establish the country’s first historical DNA database, providing researchers with a crucial tool for solving wartime mysteries – some which date back 100 years. To be managed by the Centre for Ancient DNA at Adelaide University, the database will provide scientists and historians with a snapshot of the genetic makeup of the Australian population in the early 1900s.

The DNA database would prove a vital tool for any number of projects, including identifying unrecovered war dead and even solving decades-old missing person cases. I suspect the database would also be valuable for genealogy purposes although privacy laws may prevent its use for that purpose.

You can read more about this new effort in an article by Bridie Smith in the Sydney Morning Herald at http://goo.gl/FJzl9i.

Seen on the Street Corner: A Genealogy DNA Problem


Half of Western European Men are Descended from one Bronze Age Person

Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown, according to an article in The Telegraph. The ‘king,’ who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent.

Although it is not known who he was, or where he lived, scientists say he must have existed because of genetic variation in today’s European populations.

The Irish Are Not Celtic!

I am not certain if I believe this or not. However, it certainly is an interesting claim. Slashdot has an article that claims, “The discovery of a burial site in Ireland has thrown into doubt all theories concerning the Celtic origins of the Irish. ‘The DNA evidence based on those bones completely upends the traditional view,’ said Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Oxford who has written books on the origins of the people of Ireland. DNA research indicates that the three skeletons found behind McCuaig’s are the ancestors of the modern Irish and they predate the Celts and their purported arrival by 1,000 years or more. The genetic roots of today’s Irish, in other words, existed in Ireland before the Celts arrived. The article is quite detailed, and outlines the overall scientific problem of the Celts: [namely that it] is now quite unclear who they were, where they came from, and where they went. In related news: Scientists have found new evidence of a human presence in Ireland as far back as 12,500 years ago.”

The article is available in The Washington Post at https://goo.gl/KAbR1V.

GEDMatch Suspends FTDNA Transfers

This is unwelcome news for many who have used the services of GEDMatch. The following notice was posted on GEDMatch:

“We regret we had to make the decision to stop accepting FTDNA [FamilyTreeDNA.com] DNA uploads. FTDNA has threatened to sue GEDmatch over claimed privacy issues. We have been asked not to discuss the details, because it would be to FTDNA’s disadvantage. Suffice it to say that FTDNA’s own site seems to currently violate these same issues.

“We would prefer to work closely with FTDNA in solving this problem to everybody’s benefit, but we have not received a response to any of our suggested compromise solutions. The technical obstacles to satisfying FTDNA current demands are significant. It appears that our only alternative may be to remove all FTDNA DNA match results from GEDmatch. The issues raised by FTDNA do not apply to kits from other testing companies.”

The Family Tree DNA web site states:

New Documentary Aims to Discover Truth about Coventry, England, Families and DNA

If your ancestors came from Coventry, England, you will be interested in a new Channel 4 documentary that is seeking residents from the city and surrounding region.

The new show – which is based on DNA and families – aims to speak with people who have a range of stories, with the motives for a DNA test explored throughout a series of heart-wrenching episodes. Producers of the forthcoming show – which builds on the success of series like Who Do You Think You Are? on the BBC – are promising to help those involved piece together who they truly are.

With extensive researchers, and the help of the best DNA testing, you can expect to full understand the truth behind your relationships with others. If you are interested in appearing, contact DNA@sugarfilms.co.uk to find out more.

Genetic Family History Test Now Available from AncestryDNA

The following announcement was written by the folks at AncestryDNA:

LONDON, March 10, 2016 — Revolutionary DNA test will help people discover where they come from and uncover unknown family members

AncestryDNA_logoAncestryDNA, the market-leading family history DNA testing service, is now available in over 30 countries, changing the way people can discover more about themselves and their family history and also helping them connect with relatives they didn’t know existed.

Users simply ‘spit in a tube’ and then send it off to the lab where advanced DNA technology is used to reveal a person’s genetic ethnicity and uncover new family connections with more than 1.5 million people who have taken the test.

Does Your Cousin’s DNA Make You a Suspect?

Estimated-Number-of-Genealogists-English-Speaking-CountriesAn article by Gavin Phillips in the MakeUseOf web site caught my eye for several reasons. The primary thrust of the article shows how the growth of alternate private genealogy databases has understandably piqued the interest of law enforcement agencies. Investigators now often use a technique known as familial searching, a technique that seeks to identify a potential suspect’s surname through DNA analysis focusing on the Y-chromosome. As a result, individuals lose their right of defense against self-incrimination simply because a male relative’s DNA information held by private businesses is easily available to law enforcement officials on a “fishing expedition.”

Privacy advocates have long warned against the creation of giant, centralized genetic databases.

Several other items are mentioned in the same article: