Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Genealogical Studies Being Aided by Family Tree DNA Tests

Genealogical Studies Being Aided by Family Tree DNA Tests

Family Tree DNA helps genealogists find lost relatives when the paper trail ends and the brick wall takes its place.

Millions of people around the world can trace their ancestry back several generations or more through oral history, family documents or government records of such events as marriages and births. In the United States, genealogy has become a popular pursuit especially for descendants of immigrants who are interested in knowing where their forefathers originated. These genealogical researchers are being aided these days by DNA tests that can sometimes help them bridge gaps left in the paper trail. Sometimes these tests can lead to surprises.

Continued: http://www.emaxhealth.com/5/19402.html

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Three Announcements from last week

There were three big announcements last week: Louis Henry Gates has started AfricanDNA with Family Tree DNA; deCode Genetics announced the release of its deCODEme product; and 23andMe announced the release of its product. Only the first product, AfricanDNA has a direct genetic genealogy impact for people wanting to know their ancestry using the current generation of DNA tests developed by FTDNA and others.

The latter two are more oriented toward medical aspects of one's DNA. Each uses a vastly expanded set of SNP tests accross the whole of the human genome. Neither test tests all the SNP sites used by the tests from FTDNA and other genetic genealogy testing companies. Until we see some results from their tests, it is not possible to tell how useful they will be for genetic genealogy.

The medical orientation of the tests is emphasized by the fact that deCODE had to enter into a consent decree in order to be able to off the test in all American states. As it is, eleven states will not allow their citizens access to the medical analysis portion of the results: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wyoming.

Two questions arise in my mind: Will the deCODEme test be covered by medical insurance; does this mean we can expect to see prices fall for traditional genetic genealogy tests as the labs adopt the large test chips developed by Illumina and other companies?

More news later.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More on Descendants of Joseph Smith

DNA tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants

Scientific advances prove no genetic link
By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News
Published: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007 12:13 a.m. MST

After more than a century of speculation about whether LDS Church founder Joseph Smith had children with any of his plural wives, a local geneticist said he recently has crossed two such purported descendants off the list of potential candidates.

Ugo Perego, director of operations at the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, told the Deseret Morning News that technological advances in DNA testing during the past couple of years have helped prove with "99.9 percent certainty" that two early Latter-day Saints thought by some to be Smith's children are not his descendants. They are:
• Mosiah Hancock, son of Clarissa Reed Hancock, who was married to Levi Hancock.
• Oliver Buell, son of Prescindia Huntington Buell, who was married to Norman Buell.

Continue reading here: http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695226318,00.html

I have a particular interest in Joseph Smith's descendants since his wife is a cousin of mine on several lines of descent.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Alex Haley's nephew tests R1b

"Honoring Our Ancestors: Haley Family of Roots Fame Joins the DNA Game,
by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Chris Haley
Many of you have probably heard or read about the entry of Ancestry into the genetic genealogy world. And some of you may have also heard that one of the first in line to get tested by DNA Ancestry was Chris Haley, Director of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland at the Maryland State Archives and –oh, yeah–the nephew of Alex Haley.

The Haley Line
While we strongly associate the Haley name with “Roots,” the classic book that has inspired so many avid genealogists, that particular book isn’t actually about the Haley line. But “Queen,” a later book by Alex Haley and David Stevens, gives a brief accounting of this branch of the family tree:

“Following the common custom among slaves, Alec had taken the name Haley from his true Massa, although his real father’s name was Baugh. William Baugh was an overseer . . .”

Alec was the grandfather of Alex and the great-grandfather of Chris. And his father had been an overseer. So to the best of the family’s knowledge, the progenitor of the Haley line was of European origin, not African."

Continued here: http://blogs.ancestry.com/circle/?p=2025

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Palatines to America Fall Conference - Genetic Genealogy Presentations

Title: New Holland, PA - Genetic Genealogy Presentations

Date:   Saturday October 13, 2007 
Time:   9:30 am - 3:30 pm  
Location:   Yoder's Meeting Rooms 
City State Zip:   New Holland, PA  
Notes:   "Genetic Genealogy: An Introduction"
"The Kerchner Surname Project"
"Y-DNA Projects in Genealogy"
"mtDNA Projects in Genealogy"
Speakers: Charles F. Kerchner, 
Steven Perkins, and Bill Hurst
Palatines to America Fall Conference - PA Chapter
$35 Registration Fee - includes lunch 

Monday, October 08, 2007

4th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy for Family Tree DNA Group Administrators

HOUSTON, July 5, 2007 (For Immediate Release) – Family Tree DNA, the world leader in the field of genetic genealogy, is pleased to announce its 4th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy for Group Administrators. The event will take place on October 20-21, 2007 at the Houston Marriott West Loop in Houston, TX. The two-day conference features leading experts exploring a variety of topics related to using DNA for family history and deep ancestral origins.

The conference is open to genealogists from all over the world who currently manage Group Projects at Family Tree DNA and want to learn more about how to make the most of DNA testing for genealogy by having a better understanding of the science, and the impact it has on family studies and traditional genealogy.

Continued at http://www.ftdna.com/conference_pr07.html

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will be a speaker on the first day of the conference. The program is listed at http://www.ftdna.com/conference_2007_reg.asp

Seeking Columbus's Origins with a swab

Published: October 8, 2007

"BARCELONA, Spain — When schoolchildren turn to the chapter on Christopher Columbus’s humble origins as the son of a weaver in Genoa, they are not generally told that he might instead have been born out of wedlock to a Portuguese prince. Or that he might have been a Jew whose parents converted to escape the Spanish Inquisition. Or a rebel in the medieval kingdom of Catalonia."

Continued at New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/08/us/08columbus.html

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Personal Genomics and the End of Insurance

From Venture Beat:

Personal genomics and the end of insurance
By David P. Hamilton 09.11.07

"Not too long from now, your genes are likely to be at war with your health insurer — and your genes may well have the upper hand.

Within the next few years, it should become fairly easy and inexpensive to get a rough-and-ready readout of your own genetic code, one that you can scan for information on which diseases you’re most likely to contract, which drugs will help you the most, and ultimately even how your children might turn out. In other words, a brave new world of genetic transparency is on its way, one that promises to empower individuals to an extent that’s still difficult to grasp. (For some preliminary thoughts on that subject, see here, here and here.)"

Continued at http://venturebeat.com/2007/09/11/personal-genomics-and-the-end-of-insurance

Monday, September 03, 2007

Dr J Craig Venter has released his full genome

The Diploid Genome Sequence of an Individual Human

Samuel Levy1*, Granger Sutton1, Pauline C. Ng1, Lars Feuk2, Aaron L. Halpern1, Brian P. Walenz1, Nelson Axelrod1, Jiaqi Huang1, Ewen F. Kirkness1, Gennady Denisov1, Yuan Lin1, Jeffrey R. MacDonald2, Andy Wing Chun Pang2, Mary Shago2, Timothy B. Stockwell1, Alexia Tsiamouri1, Vineet Bafna3, Vikas Bansal3, Saul A. Kravitz1, Dana A. Busam1, Karen Y. Beeson1, Tina C. McIntosh1, Karin A. Remington1, Josep F. Abril4, John Gill1, Jon Borman1, Yu-Hui Rogers1, Marvin E. Frazier1, Stephen W. Scherer2, Robert L. Strausberg1, J. Craig Venter1

1 J. Craig Venter Institute, Rockville, Maryland, United States of America,
2 Program in Genetics and Genomic Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children, and Molecular and Medical Genetics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
3 Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States of America,
4 Genetics Department, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Presented here is a genome sequence of an individual human. It was produced from 32 million random DNA fragments, sequenced by Sanger dideoxy technology and assembled into 4,528 scaffolds, comprising 2,810 million bases (Mb) of contiguous sequence with approximately 7.5-fold coverage for any given region. We developed a modified version of the Celera assembler to facilitate the identification and comparison of alternate alleles within this individual diploid genome. Comparison of this genome and the National Center for Biotechnology Information human reference assembly revealed more than 4.1 million DNA variants, encompassing 12.3 Mb. These variants (of which 1,288,319 were novel) included 3,213,401 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), 53,823 block substitutions (2–206 bp), 292,102 heterozygous insertion/deletion events (indels)(1–571 bp), 559,473 homozygous indels (1–82,711 bp), 90 inversions, as well as numerous segmental duplications and copy number variation regions. Non-SNP DNA variation accounts for 22% of all events identified in the donor, however they involve 74% of all variant bases. This suggests an important role for non-SNP genetic alterations in defining the diploid genome structure. Moreover, 44% of genes were heterozygous for one or more variants. Using a novel haplotype assembly strategy, we were able to span 1.5 Gb of genome sequence in segments >200 kb, providing further precision to the diploid nature of the genome. These data depict a definitive molecular portrait of a diploid human genome that provides a starting point for future genome comparisons and enables an era of individualized genomic information.

Funding. Funding was provided from the J. Craig Venter Institute, Genome Canada/Ontario Genomics Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation, the McLaughlin Centre for Molecular Medicine, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. SWS is an Investigator of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. LF is supported by CIHR scholarship.

Competing interests. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Academic Editor: Edward M. Rubin, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, United States of America

Citation: Levy S, Sutton G, Ng PC, Feuk L, Halpern AL, et al. (2007) The Diploid Genome Sequence of an Individual Human. PLoS Biol 5(10): e254 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050254

Received: May 9, 2007; Accepted: July 30, 2007; Published: September 4, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Off the Beaten Path: An Interview with Spencer Wells

From PLoS:
Jane Gitschier
Citation: Gitschier J (2007) Off the Beaten Path: An Interview with Spencer Wells. PLoS Genet 3(3): e44 doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030044

"Spencer Wells has this geneticist's dream job. He transits the globe, collecting DNA samples, building collaborations, and orchestrating what may be the most extensive and fascinating project on human origins yet, sponsored by one of the most respected institutions in the US—The National Geographic Society. There, Wells holds the oxymoronically named post of “Explorer-in-Residence” and runs the Genographic Project (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic), whose mission is to collect and genotype the Y and mitochondrial chromosomes from people the world over in order to track male and female lineages, respectively, and thereby infer migratory patterns throughout human history.

I was curious to learn how someone so young (he started working with National Geographic when he was only 33) could plunge into a project of this magnitude. The answer is that Wells is a man of many facets, vision, and energy. And he has a knack for creating the opportunity."

Continued here:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

African American Lives 2

NEW YORK -- In February 2006, the acclaimed PBS series African American Lives brought to the forefront of national consciousness the powerful process of discovering one’s family history. A Roots for the 21st century, the series made a deep cultural impact through its riveting use of DNA analysis, genealogical research and family oral tradition to trace the lineages of highly accomplished African Americans down through U.S. history and back to Africa.

One year later, Oprah’s Roots further crystallized and propelled America’s interest in family tree research through the powerful stories of Oprah Winfrey’s ancestors and their accomplishments.

Now, you too are invited to participate in the newest African American Lives project. The producers of African American Lives 2 are seeking an African American to join Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and an all-new group of distinguished African Americans on an extraordinary journey of discovery. The series is tentatively scheduled to air on PBS in February 2008.

"What we find in doing this research is that even a regular person has extraordinary stories within his or her family," says Professor Gates. "In African American Lives 2, we’ll work with one such person to show that the technology and resources for discovering these stories are available to all Americans, especially those of African descent."

Under the supervision of Professor Gates, the series’ research will be conducted by the eminent genealogists Tony Burroughs, Johni Cerny, Jane Ailes and Megan Smolenyak together with Ancestry.com, one of the world’s leading online resources for family history information. They’ll research the selected individual’s family history, while a DNA testing service will provide a genetic analysis. The results of both will be revealed, along with that of the other series participants, by Professor Gates on the PBS broadcast of African American Lives 2.


Beginning April 18th, interested individuals must apply online at www.pbs.org/aalives. Online applications must be received by 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 4, 2007. Any applications submitted after this date and time will not be considered. Finalists will receive a one-year subscription to Ancestry.com. The winning applicant will be notified and announced the week of May 28, 2007. Please note that the following are not eligible to participate: employees, and their relatives, of PBS, the series’ producers (Thirteen/WNET, Kunhardt Productions, and Inkwell Films) and corporate sponsors (The Coca-Cola Company, Johnson & Johnson and General Motors).

In addition to their name, age, gender, and contact information, applicants will be asked to tell the judges about themselves and their family, and why they would make the ideal candidate for the series.

Upon submitting the online application, individuals will receive an e-mail confirmation with a unique identification number. Applicants must attach this number along with their name to a photograph of themselves and mail it to: African American Lives 2, 305 West Broadway, Suite 144, New York, NY 10013. Photographs must be postmarked no later than Monday, May 7. Applications are not complete until the production team receives an individual’s photograph.

Major corporate funding for African American Lives 2 is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson. Additional funding is provided by General Motors.

African American Lives 2 is a co-production of Thirteen/WNET New York, Kunhardt Productions and Inkwell Films. Graham Judd is series producer; Dyllan McGee is senior producer for Kunhardt Productions. Executive producers are Henry Louis Gates Jr., William R. Grant and Peter W. Kunhardt.