DNA

Tracing the Founding Fathers of Tristan da Cunha

Would you like to create a pedigree chart for this extended family?

Tristan da Cunha is a remote group of volcanic islands in the middle of nowhere. It is in the south Atlantic Ocean, approximately 1,511 miles (2,432 km) off the coast of Cape Town in South Africa. That is roughly half way between South Africa and Brazil The main island has 278 permanent inhabitants who all carry British Overseas Territories citizenship.

See Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_da_Cunha for more information about Tristan da Cunha.

The island, which boasts rich and detailed historical and genealogical records, has a population of just 300, believed to have descended from 15 ancestors – seven men and eight women who arrived on the island between 1816 and 1908. The current population of 278 individuals reportedly are all descended from only seven females and eight males.

Maryland Legislature Bill Introduced Prohibiting Law Enforcement to Use Publicly Available DNA Databases

The following is a message from Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson, of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

Familial DNA matches have been in the news since the California Golden State Killer was apprehended due to this technology last year. Since then other familial matches have led law enforcement to make other such arrests in outstanding major crimes such as murder and rape.

A bill introduced in Maryland, HB 30, would prohibit such searches by law enforcement or others from searching DNA or genealogical databases in order to identify an offender in connection with a crime for which the person may be a biological relative to the individual whose DNA sample is in the database. See: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2019RS/bills/hb/hb0030f.pdf

Maryland is the first state to ban the practice of familial DNA searches statewide. The District of Columbia also bans the practice. The state’s DNA collection act was authorized in 1994 which included a provision prohibiting familial searches using the statewide DNA data base for such searches. The bill extends the existing prohibition to commercial databases. Author believes the search violates the 4th Amendment of US Constitution and state constitution.

Predicting the Effectiveness of Immunotherapy Treatment by Using DNA Analysis, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), and Huge Databases in the Cloud

NOTE: This article is not about genealogy but does describe the use of DNA to prevent or cure life-threatening medical problems.

Australian analytics company Max Kelsen is using DNA information derived from millions of individuals, along with the Google Cloud, and artificial intelligence (A.I.), to predict the effectiveness of cancer treatments.

The company is integrating A.I. and whole-genome sequencing into cancer research and clinical practice, focusing initially on immunotherapy treatment for melanoma and small cell lung cancer.

Genetic Markers Don’t Follow National Borders, Says Expert

An article in the Yucatán Expat Life web site tells something that DNA experts have known for years: the claims of DNA ancestry from a particular country are often bogus. Wandering tribes of humans did not confine themselves to today’s political borders in their travels many years ago. In addition, almost all of the western hemisphere is a melting pot of people who came from many different countries.

Can a DNA kit accurately tell you how Mexican you are? Not according to one of the leading genealogy DNA experts of today.

“It’s an impossibility to really identify anyone’s DNA to be ‘Mexican,’” genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger of Baldwinsville, N.Y., told BuzzFeed News.

The Future of Crime-Fighting Is Family Tree Forensics, or Is It?

A lot of news stories in this newsletter and elsewhere have focused on the recent interest by law enforcement authorities in using DNA to help identify criminals. Many of these criminal cases have been solved years after the crimes by using the publicly-available genealogy GEDMatch.com web site to find close relatives of the criminals, then interviewing those relatives to further narrow the search for the criminals.

Catching violent criminals obviously is a good use of the available technology. However, some legal experts argue its use in criminal cases raises grave privacy concerns. Will this technology soon be used for non-criminal purposes?

Using Genes to Create Personalized Diets

NOTE: This isn’t a true genealogy article. However, it describes a new DNA service and I know many genealogists are interested in almost anything dealing with DNA. Also, I am passing this along as news, not as “my recommendation.” I have no idea how effective DNA is at identifying potential health problems. However, it is an interesting article.

From the University of Nevada at Las Vegas web site:

“It turns out you really are what you eat, according to UNLV scientists who have publicly launched a site that uses computer software to scan users’ DNA for potential health problems and create personalized diets that help lower the risks.

“Food Genes and Me is a spinoff company developed by the Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine (NIPM) at UNLV.

A Body Found 31 Years Ago is ID’d in Cold Case

The news services have been full of stories lately about using a combination of DNA plus the GEDmatch online genealogy database to identify criminals in crimes that occurred years ago, the so-called “cold cases.” See https://duckduckgo.com/?q=dna+%22cold+cases%22&t=h_&atb=v73-3_q&ia=web for a list of hundreds of such news articles.

However, the use of DNA plus GEDmatch is not limited to criminal investigations. Now researchers are finding it is a very useful tool for identifying previously unidentified bodies, some of which were crime victims and others that simply passed away without any identification.

One recent case involved a young woman whose body was found in Anaheim, California 31 years ago. She was identified this week with the help of volunteers using the same technique that identified the suspected Golden State Killer.

How to Extract Your Own DNA at Home by using Vodka

Yes, you read that right. Explore your own DNA at home by using liquid soap, salt and vodka. Oh yes, you will also need some saliva.

Disclaimer: I am not recommending this “test” as a suitable substitute for DNA testing by one of the laboratories that specialize in DNA analysis. However, it is an interesting story so I will repeat it here. After reading this, you are on your own!

One other problem: while you can extract your own DNA from your saliva sample, Dr Brian Cox does not describe how to examine the DNA to determine your ethnic heritage. Maybe that will be in the follow-on video. Then again, maybe not.

As for me, I think I will save the vodka for other purposes…

Announcing the Early Texans DNA Project

The Early Texans DNA database is now live. Those who join the Early Texans DNA project can compare their DNA to other Early Texans descendants and collaboratively work to solve early Texas genealogical mysteries.

The project helps participants study the DNA of descendants of early settlers to discover information that can contribute to Texas history including:

DNA Test Proves the Baby’s Father was not the Agreed Upon Sperm Donor

A Florida couple is seeking damages from a Vermont gynecologist after genetic tests on their 41-year-old daughter reportedly pointed to the doctor being her father, rather than the agreed upon sperm donor.

“This could not have been done accidentally,” said the couple’s lawyer. “It’s fraud, and it’s a question of inserting genetic material into a woman, not of an anonymous donor but rather the physician who is engaging in the conduct itself.”

The couple discovered the reported connection to the gynecologist when their 41-year-old daughter wanted to find her genetic background and learn more about her health and history through a DNA test promoted by several websites.

MyHeritage DNA Testing Featured on the Dr. Phil Show

U.S. residents are probably familiar with Dr. Phil’s television show. Dr. Phil says he was always aware of his Irish ancestry, but it wasn’t until he submitted a simple cheek swab to MyHeritage DNA that he realized there was more to his lineage. He used MyHeritage to test his ancestry.

“Dr. Phil, we found that you have three distinct ethnicities in six distinct countries,” says MyHeritage consultant Yvette Corporon.

Genealogy Data Helps Track Back Rare Disease Alleles to Quebec Founder Families

A Canadian team has harnessed genealogical data from Quebec to retrace the history of a rare recessive disease called “chronic atrial and intestinal dysrhythmia” (CAID), using a computational approach for inferring rare allele transmission history.

Researchers from McGill University and elsewhere used their software package, known as ISGen, to analyze past transmission of CAID alleles with the help of high-quality genealogical data for more than 3.4 million individuals of European ancestry in the Canadian province. The approach traced the rare heart and digestive condition back to French settlers who arrived in the region in the early 17th century, the team reported in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

You can read more in the research team’s announcement at: http://bit.ly/2Svhp3k. A free registration may be required, however.

If You Don’t Want to Deal with Family Skeletons, Don’t Look in the DNA Closet

Amy Dickinson is an American newspaper columnist who writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy. In a recent column, she published a letter from a reader asking how to handle a family surprise: upon having her DNA tested, the writer discovered she had a half-sibling that she was not aware of previously. She then shared this bit of information with her family, including with both of her parents.

The information was not well received.

You can read this rather interesting letter and Amy Dickinson’s advice in a number of newspapers, including the Detroit Free Press at: http://bit.ly/2QxfdL6.

Comment by Dick Eastman: I certainly cannot compete with Amy Dickinson’s nationally-syndicated advice column but I will offer one piece of advice to genealogists: If your research finds a something that was previously not widely known within the family, you might want to stop and consider the implications before you broadcast that information to your relatives. Do you really HAVE to tell everyone? or anyone?

Mitochondria Reportedly Can Come From Fathers Too

If this research is verified by others, this could turn out to be revolutionary. In some cases, mitochondrial DNA reportedly can be inherited from fathers.

Scientists and geneticists have always believed that mitochondrial DNA is inherited directly from your mother’s cells, which means there’s no paternal component. This is a big deal for anthropologists and geneticists, because these scientists use mitochondrial DNA to trace back our history through the generations.

A group of researchers found three unrelated families where individuals had mitochondrial DNA from both parents. A total of 17 people across these three families were affected, suggesting that mitochondria aren’t as exclusively maternal as scientists believed.

A Proposal to Make Money by Selling Your DNA Information

Disclaimer: I am offering this information about a new company’s business plans “as is.” I am not endorsing the company’s service or recommending it in any way. I find the information in this article to be very interesting but I am not yet signing up as a customer of this new service. Instead, I plan to sit back for a while and watch what happens. You need to evaluate the company’s plans for yourself before you sign up.

A few weeks ago, Encrypgen launched what it claims is the world’s first blockchain genomic data marketplace. The company claims it can now begin generating revenues by bringing data buyers and sellers together through a cryptocurrency platform.

According to Encrypgen’s business plans, consumers and researchers will be able to transact with each other in a way that is beneficial to both parties and to Encrypgen. Consumers will be able to upload their genomic data and store it securely. The names, addresses, and all other identifying information of each consumer will be removed from the data and encoded in such a manner that researchers cannot identify the consumer but any payments made by the researchers will eventually be shared with the consumer who uploaded the DNA information.

Findmypast Announces Black Friday DNA Sale

The following announcement was written by Findmypast:

Now You Can Sequence Your Genome For Just $200

UPDATE: This “limited time offer” has now expired.

NOTE: This isn’t about having a few markers of your DNA tested for genealogy purposes. Instead, it describes a test to have your ENTIRE GENOME tested.

The first nearly complete human genomes were sequenced in 2007: J. Craig Venter and James Watson. The exact cost of the effort was never precisely calculated but it probably cost a million dollars or more for the laboratories involved. (The cost was not passed on to the individuals being sequenced.)

Now, only eleven years later, for the next 48 hours, Cambridge-based Veritas Genetics will be lowering its $999 whole genome sequencing and interpretation service for just $199 for two days, or to the first 1,000 people who buy spit kits. Again, that is a limited-time offer.

One Company Offers To Sequence Your Genome Free Of Charge, Then Let You Profit From It

“Everything is private information, stored on your computer or a computer you designate,” says George Church, genetics professor at Harvard Medical School, about the approach of Nebula Genomics.

The blockchain was invented in 2008 for the purpose of tracking the exchange of Bitcoins in a manner that cannot be hacked. So far, the blockchain has proven to be the most secure computer method available for tracking information about all sorts of things. Today, the blockchain is used to track financial transactions at major banks, for recording transfers of cryptocurrencies, for tracking the source of fish from the point of being caught to a sushi restaurant, and for the tracking of spare parts sold by large industrial manufacturers.

NOTE: For an explanation of what a blockchain is and how it works, look at Blockchain Explained at https://www.upfolio.com/ultimate-blockchain-guide.

A startup genetics company says it’s now offering to sequence your entire genome (not just the markers on interest to genealogists, but EVERYTHING) at no cost to you. Nebula Genomics, created by the prominent Harvard geneticist George Church and his lab colleagues, seeks to upend the usual way genomic information is owned. In fact, you would retain ownership of the 6 billion bits of your genetic source code instead of giving the information away to some company in the manner that most of today’s DNA databases operate. You might even be able to make money off it, although the amount of money earned probably will be modest. The information would be stored privately in a blockchain that cannot be hacked.

MyHeritage Announces a New Feature for DNA users — the Display of Shared Ancestral Places for DNA Matches

MyHeritage now can show you towns, countries and U.S. states where birth or death events of ancestors took place that appear in your family tree and that you have in common with your DNA Matches. This feature makes the company’s DNA Matching even more useful by helping pinpoint how you and your DNA Matches could be related.

Quoting from the announcement:

“Shared Ancestral Places refer to towns, countries, or U.S. states that appear in your family tree as well as in the family trees of your DNA Matches, where birth or death events of your ancestors (and those of your DNA Matches’ ancestors) took place. These places are identified going back up to 10 generations and can play a vital role in family history research.

Findmypast Partners With Living DNA to Launch the Most Detailed Ancestry Discovery Experience

The following announcement was written by Findmypast:

  • Findmypast, in collaboration with Living DNA, has launched the most advanced biogeographical ancestry discovery experience on the market
  • This British brand partnership uses cutting-edge science to reveal users’ unique British and Irish heritage across 21 regions and is the first to connect DNA to Findmypast’s archive of more than 9 billion historical records
  • Findmypast and Living DNA’s combined service allows users to pinpoint exactly where in the UK their family roots come from and then use the findings to explore their family history in extensive archives
  • Those who have already taken DNA tests can upload their tests here and make discoveries that only Findmypast DNA can provide

Leading British and Irish family history website, Findmypast, has launched their partnership with leading British DNA testing firm, Living DNA, to create a new biogeographical ancestry experience to help family historians explore their worldwide and British and Irish roots.

Available from today, the partnership combines science and history to allow people to explore their past in more depth than ever before possible. It uses Living DNA’s unique test employing cutting-edge science to provide a unique breakdown of 80 global regions, including 21 across Britain and Ireland. Exclusive to Living DNA, this method delivers a level of detail currently unmatched by any other DNA test available on the market.