2014 Y Tree Released by Family Tree DNA

On April 25th, DNA Day and Arbor Day, Family Tree DNA updated and released their 2014 Y haplotree created in partnership with the Genographic project.  This has been a massive project, expanding the tree from about 850 SNPs to over 6200, of which about 1200 are “terminal,” meaning the end of a branch, and the rest being proven to be duplicates.

If you’re a newbie, this would be a good place perhaps to read about what a haplogroup is and the new Y naming convention which replaces the well-known group names like R1b1a2 with the SNP shorthand version of the same haplogroup name, R-M269.  From this time forward, the haplogroups will be known by their SNP names and the longhand version is obsolete, although you will always see it in older documents, articles and papers.  In fact, this entire tree has been made possible by SNP testing by both academic organizations and consumers.  To understand the difference between regular STR marker testing and SNP testing, click here.

I’ve divided this article into two parts.  The first part is the “what did they do and why” part and the second is the “what does it mean to you” portion.

This tree update has been widely anticipated for some time now.  We knew that Family Tree DNA was calibrating the tree in partnership with the Genographic project, but we didn’t know what else would be included until the tree was released.

What Did Family Tree DNA Do, and Why?

Janine Cloud, the liaison at Family Tree DNA for Project Administrators has provided some information as to the big picture.

“First, we’re committed to the next iteration of the tree and it will be more comprehensive, but we’re going to be really careful about the data we use from other sources. It HAS to be from raw data, not interpreted data. Second, I’ve italicized what I think is really the mission statement for all the work that’s been done on this tree and that will be done in the future.”

Janine interviewed Elliott Greenspan of Family Tree DNA about the new tree, and here are some of the salient points from that discussion.

“This year we’re committing to launching another tree. This tree will be more comprehensive, utilizing data from external sources: known Sanger data, as well as data such as Big Y, and if we have direct access to the raw data to make the proof (from large companies, such as the Chromo2) or a publication, or something of that nature. That is our intention that it be added into the data.

We’re definitely committed to update at least once per year. Our intention is to use data from other sources, as well as any SNPs we can, but it must be well-vetted. NGS and SNP technology inherently has errors. You must curate for those errors otherwise you’re just putting slop out to customers. There are some SNPs that may bind to the X chromosome that you didn’t know. There are some low coverages that you didn’t know.

With technology such as this you’re able to overcome the urge to test only what you’re likely to be positive for, and instead use the shotgun method and test everything. This allows us to make the discovery that SNPs are not nearly as stable as we thought, and they have a larger potential use in that sense.

Not only does the raw data need to be vetted but it needs to make sense.  Using Geno 2.0, I only accepted samples that had the highest call rate, not just because it was the best quality but because it was the most data. I don’t want to be looking at data where I’m missing potential information A, or I may become confused by potential information B.  That is something that will bog us down. When you’re looking at large data sets, I’d much rather throw out 20% of them because they’re going to take 90% of the time than to do my best to get 1 extra SNP on the tree or 1 extra branch modified, that is not worth all of our time and effort. What is, is figuring out what the broader scope of people are, because that is how you break down origins. Figuring one single branch for one group of three people is not truly interesting until it’s 50 people, because 50 people is a population. Three people may be a family unit.  You have to have enough people to determine relevance. That’s why using large datasets and using complete datasets are very, very important.

I want it to be the most accurate tree it can be, but I also want it to be interesting. That’s the key. Historical relevance is what we’re to discover. Anthropological relevance. It’s not just who has the largest tree, it’s who can make the most sense out of what you have is important.”

Thanks to both Janine and Elliott for providing this information.

What is Provided in the Update?

The genetic genealogy community was hopeful that the new 2014 tree would be comprehensive, meaning that it would include not only the Genographic SNPs, but ones from Walk the Y, perhaps some Chromo2, Full Genomes results and the Big Y.  Perhaps we were being overly optimistic, especially given the huge influx of new SNPs, the SNP tsunami as we call it, over the past few months.  Family Tree DNA clearly had to put a stake in the sand and draw the line someplace.  So, what is actually included, how did they select the SNPs for the new tree and how does this integrate with the Genographic information?  This information was provided by Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA created the 2014 Y-DNA Haplotree in partnership with the National Geographic Genographic Project using the proprietary GenoChip. Launched publicly in late 2012, the chip tests approximately 10,000 Y-DNA SNPs that had not, at the time, been phylogenetically classified.

The team used the first 50,000 male samples with the highest quality results to determine SNP positions. Using only tests with the highest possible “call rate” meant more available data, since those samples had the highest percentage of SNPs that produced results, or “calls.”

In some cases, SNPs that were on the 2010 Y-DNA Haplotree didn’t work well on the GenoChip, so the team used Sanger sequencing on anonymous samples to test those SNPs and to confirm ambiguous locations.

For example, if it wasn’t clear if a clade was a brother (parallel) clade, or a downstream clade, they tested for it.

The scope of the project did not include going farther than SNPs currently on the GenoChip in order to base the tree on the most data available at the time, with the cutoff for inclusion being about November of 2013.

Where data were clearly missing or underrepresented, the team curated additional data from the chip where it was available in later samples. For example, there were very few Haplogroup M samples in the original dataset of 50,000, so to ensure coverage, the team went through eligible Geno 2.0 samples submitted after November, 2013, to pull additional Haplogroup M data. That additional research was not necessary on, for example, the robust Haplogroup R dataset, for which they had a significant number of samples.

Family Tree DNA, again in partnership with the Genographic Project, is committed to releasing at least one update to the tree this year. The next iteration will be more comprehensive, including data from external sources such as known Sanger data, Big Y testing, and publications. If the team gets direct access to raw data from other large companies’ tests, then that information will be included as well. We are also committed to at least one update per year in the future.

Known SNPs will not intentionally be renamed. Their original names will be used since they represent the original discoverers of the SNP. If there are two names, one will be chosen to be displayed and the additional name will be available in the additional data, but the team is taking care not to make synonymous SNPs seems as if they are two separate SNPs. Some examples of that may exist initially, but as more SNPs are vetted, and as the team learns more, those examples will be removed.

In addition, positions or markers within STRs, as they are discovered, or large insertion/deletion events inside homopolymers, potentially may also be curated from additional data because the event cannot accurately be proven. A homopolymer is a sequence of identical bases, such as AAAAAAAAA or TTTTTTTTT. In such cases it’s impossible to tell which of the bases the insertion is, or if/where one was deleted. With technology such as Next Generation Sequencing, trying to get SNPs in regions such as STRs or homopolymers doesn’t make sense because we’re discovering non-ambiguous SNPs that define the same branches, so we can use the non-ambiguous SNPs instead.

Some SNPs from the 2010 tree have been intentionally removed. In some cases, those were SNPs for which the team never saw a positive result, so while it may be a legitimate SNP, even haplogroup defining, it was outside of the current scope of the tree. In other cases, the SNP was found in so many locations that it could cause the orientation of the tree to be drawn in more than one way. If the SNP could legitimately be positioned in more than one haplogroup, the team deemed that SNP to not be haplogroup defining, but rather a high polymorphic location.

To that end, SNPs no longer have .1, .2, or .3 designations. For example, J-L147.1 is simply J-L147, and I-147.2 is simply I-147.  Those SNPs are positioned in the same place, but back-end programming will assign the appropriate haplogroup using other available information such as additional SNPs tested or haplogroup origins listed. If other SNPs have been tested and can unambiguously prove the location of the multi-locus SNP for the sample, then that data is used. If not, matching haplogroup origin information is used.

We will also move to shorthand haplogroup designations exclusively. Since we’re committing to at least one iteration of the tree per year, using longhand that could change with each update would be too confusing.  For example, Haplogroup O used to have three branches: O1, O2, and O3. A SNP was discovered that combined O1 and O2, so they became O1a and O1b.

There are over 1200 branches on the 2014 Y Haplogroup tree, as compared to about 400 on the 2010 tree. Those branches contain over 6200 SNPs, so we’ve chosen to display select SNPs as “active” with an adjacent “More” button to show the synonymous SNPs if you choose.

In addition to the Family Tree DNA updates, any sample tested with the Genographic Project’s Geno 2.0 DNA Ancestry Kit, then transferred to FTDNA will automatically be re-synched on the Geno side. The Genographic Project is currently integrating the new data into their system and will announce on their website when the process is complete in the coming weeks.  At that time, all Geno 2.0 participants’ results will be updated accordingly and will be accessible via the Genographic Project website.

In summary:

  • Created in partnership with National Geographic’s Genographic Project
  • Used GenoChip containing ~10,000 previously unclassified Y-SNPs
  • Some of those SNPs came from Walk Through the Y and the 1000 Genome Project
  • Used first 50,000 high-quality male Geno 2.0 samples
  • Verified positions from 2010 YCC by Sanger sequencing additional anonymous samples
  • Filled in data on rare haplogroups using later Geno 2.0 samples

Statistics

  • Expanded from approximately 400 to over 1200 terminal branches
  • Increased from around 850 SNPs to over 6200 SNPs
  • Cut-off date for inclusion for most haplogroups was November 2013

Total number of SNPs broken down by haplogroup

A 406 DE 16 IJ 29 LT 12 P 81
B 69 E 1028 IJK 2 M 17 Q 198
BT 8 F 90 J 707 N 168 R 724
C 371 G 401 K 11 NO 16 S 5
CT 64 H 18 K(xLT) 1 O 936 T 148
D 208 I 455 L 129

myFTDNA Interface

  • Existing customers receive free update to predictions and confirmed branches based on existing SNP test results.
  • Haplogroup badge updated if new terminal branch is available
  • Updated haplotree design displays new SNPs and branches for your haplogroup
  • Branch names now listed in shorthand using terminal SNPs
  • For SNPs with more than one name, in most cases the original name for SNP was used, with synonymous SNPs listed when you click “More…”
  • No longer using SNP names with .1, .2, .3 suffixes. Back-end programming will place SNP in correct haplogroup using available data.
  • SNPs recommended for additional testing are pre-populated in the cart for your convenience. Just click to remove those you don’t want to test.
  • SNPs recommended for additional testing are based on 37-marker haplogroup origins data where possible, 25- or 12-marker data where 37 markers weren’t available.
  • Once you’ve tested additional SNPs, that information will be used to automatically recommend additional SNPs for you if they’re available.
  • If you remove those prepopulated SNPs from the cart, but want to re-add them, just refresh your page or close the page and return.
  • Only one SNP per branch can be ordered at one time – synonymous SNPs can possibly ordered from the Advanced Orders section on the Upgrade Order page.
  • Tests taken have moved to the bottom of the haplogroup page.

Coming attractions

  • Group Administrator Pages will have longhand removed.
  • At least one update to the tree to be released this year.
  • Update will include: data from Big Y, relevant publications, other companies’ tests from raw data.
  • We’ll set up a system for those who have tested with other big data companies to contribute their raw data file to future versions of the tree.
  • We’re committed to releasing at least one update per year.
  • The Genographic Project is currently integrating the new data into their system and will announce on their website when the process is complete in the coming weeks. At that time, all Geno 2.0 participants’ results will be updated accordingly and accessible via the Genographic Project website.

What Does This Mean to You?

Your Badge

On your welcome page, your badges are listed.  Your badge previously would have included the longhand form of the haplogroup, such as R1b1a2, but now it shows R-M269.

2014 y 1

Please note that badges are not yet showing on all participants pages.  If yours aren’t yet showing, clicking on the Haplotree and SNP page under the YDNA option on the blue options bar where your more detailed information is shown, below.

Your Haplogroup Name

Your haplogroup is now noted only as the SNP designation, R-M269, not the older longhand names.

2014 y 2 v2

Haplogroup R is a huge haplogroup, so you’ll need to scroll down to see your confirmed or predicted haplogroup, shown in green below.

2014 y 3

Redesigned Page

The redesigned haplotree page includes an option to order SNPs downstream of your confirmed or predicted haplogroup.  This refines your haplogroup and helps isolate your branch on the tree.  You may or may not want to do this.  In some cases, this does help your genealogy, especially in cases where you’re dealing with haplogroup R.  For the most part, haplogroups are more historical in nature.  For example, they will help you determine whether your ancestors are Native American, African, Anglo Saxon or maybe Viking.  Haplogroups help us reach back before the advent of surnames.

The new page shows which SNPs are available for you to order from the SNPs on the tree today, shown above, in blue to the right of the SNP branch.

SNPs not on the Tree

Not all known SNPs are on the tree.  Like I said, a line in the sand had to be drawn.  There are SNPs, many recently discovered, that are not on the tree.

To put this in perspective, the new tree incorporates 6200 SNPs (up from 850), but the Big Y “pool” of known SNPs against which Family Tree DNA is comparing those results was 36,562 when the first results were initially released at the end of February.

If you have taken advanced SNP testing, such as the Walk the Y, the Big Y, or tested individual SNPs, your terminal SNP may not be on the tree, which means that your terminal SNP shown on your page, such as R-M269 above, MAY NOT BE ACCURATE in light of that testing.  Why?  Because these newly discovered SNPs are not yet on the tree. This only affects people who have done advanced testing which means it does not affect most people.

Ordering SNPs

You can order relevant SNPs for your haplogroup on the tree by clicking on the “Add” button beside the SNP.

You can order SNPs not on the tree by clicking on the “Advanced Order Form” link available at the bottom of the haplotree page.

2014 y 4

If you’re not sure of what you want to do, or why, you might want to touch bases with your project administrators.  Depending on your testing goal, it might be much more advantageous, both scientifically and financially, for you to take either the Geno2 test or the Big Y.

At this point, in light of some of the issues with the new release, I would suggest maybe holding tight for a bit in terms of ordering new SNPs unless you’re positive that your haplogroup is correct and that the SNP selection you want to order would actually be beneficial to you.

Words of Caution

This are some bugs in this massive update.  You might want to check your haplogroup assignment to be sure it is reflected accurately based on any SNP testing you have had done, of course, excepting the very advanced tests mentioned above.

If you discover something that is inaccurate or questionable, please notify Family Tree DNA.  This is especially relevant for project administrators who are familiar with family groups and know that people who are in the same surname group should share a common base haplogroup, although some people who have taken further SNP testing will be shown with a downstream haplogroup, further down that particular branch of the tree.

What kind of result might you find suspicious or questionable?  For example, if in your surname project, your matching surname cousins are all listed at R-M269 and you were too previously, but now you’re suddenly in a different haplogroup, like E, there is clearly an error.

Any suspected or confirmed errors should be reported to Family Tree DNA.

They have made it very easy by providing a “Feedback” button on the top of the page and there is a “Y tree” option in the dropdown box.

2014 y 5

For administrators providing reports that involve more than one participant, please send to Groups@familytreedna.com and include the kit numbers, the participants names and the nature of the issue.

Additional Information

Family Tree DNA provides a free webinar that can be viewed about the 2014 Y Tree release.  You can see all of the webinars that are archived and available for viewing at:  https://www.familytreedna.com/learn/ftdna/webinars/

What’s Next?

The Genographic Project is in the process of updating to the same tree so their results can be synchronized with the 2014 tree.  A date for this has not yet been released.

Family Tree DNA has committed to at least one more update this year.

I know that this update was massive and required extensive reprogramming that affected almost every aspect of their webpage.  If you think about it, nearly every page had to be updated from the main page to the order page.  The tree is the backbone of everything.  I want to thank the Family Tree DNA and Genograpic combined team for their efforts and Bennett Greenspan for making sure this did happen, just as he committed to do in November at the last conference.

Like everyone else, I want everything NOW, not tomorrow.  We’re all passionate about this hobby – although I think it is more of a life mission for many – and surpassed hobby status long ago.

I know there are issues with the tree and they frustrate me, like everyone else.  Those issues will be resolved.  Family Tree DNA is actively working on reported issues and many have already been fixed.

There is some amount of disappointment in the genetic genealogy community about the SNPs not included on the tree, especially the SNPs recently discovered in advanced tests like the Big Y.  Other trees, like the ISOGG tree, do in fact reflect many of these newly discovered SNPs.

There are a couple of major differences.  First, ISOGG has an virtual army of volunteers who are focused on maintaining this tree.  We are all very lucky that they do, and that Alice Fairhurst coordinates this effort and has done so now for many years.  I would be lost without the ISOGG tree.

However, when a change is made to the ISOGG tree, and there have been thousands of changes, adds and moves over the years, nothing else is affected.  No one’s personal page, no one’s personal tree, no projects, no maps, no matches and no order pages.  ISOGG has no “responsibility” to anyone – in other words – it’s widely known and accepted that they are a volunteer organization without clients.

Family Tree DNA, on the other hand has half a million (or so) paying customers.  Tree changes have a huge domino ripple effect there – not only on their customers’ personal pages, but to their entire website, projects, support and orders.  A change at Family Tree DNA is much more significant than on the ISOGG page – not to mention – they don’t have the same army of volunteers and they have to rely on the raw science, not interpretation, as they said in the information they provided.  A tree update at Family Tree DNA is a very different animal than updating a stand-alone tree, especially considering their collaboration with various scientific organizations, including the National Geographic Society.

I commend Family Tree DNA for this update and thank them for the update and the educational materials.  I’m also glad to see that they do indeed rely only on science, not interpretation.  Frustrating to the genetic genealogist in me?  Sure.  But in the long run, it’s worth it to be sure the results are accurate.

Could this release have been smoother and more accurate?  Certainly.  Hopefully this is the big speed bump and future releases will be much more graceful.  It’s easy to see why there aren’t any other companies providing this type of comprehensive testing.  It’s gone from an easy 12 marker “do we match” scenario to the forefront of pioneering population genetics.  And all within a decade.  It’s amazing that any company can keep up.

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2013’s Dynamic Dozen – Top Genetic Genealogy Happenings

dna 8 ball

Last year I wrote a column at the end of the year titled  “2012 Top 10 Genetic Genealogy Happenings.”  It’s amazing the changes in this industry in just one year.  It certainly makes me wonder what the landscape a year from now will look like.

I’ve done the same thing this year, except we have a dozen.  I couldn’t whittle it down to 10, partly because there has been so much more going on and so much change – or in the case of Ancestry, who is noteworthy because they had so little positive movement.

If I were to characterize this year of genetic genealogy, I would call it The Year of the SNP, because that applies to both Y DNA and autosomal.  Maybe I’d call it The Legal SNP, because it is also the year of law, court decisions, lawsuits and FDA intervention.  To say it has been interesting is like calling the Eiffel Tower an oversized coat hanger.

I’ll say one thing…it has kept those of us who work and play in this industry hopping busy!  I guarantee you, the words “I’m bored” have come out of the mouth of no one in this industry this past year.

I’ve put these events in what I consider to be relatively accurate order.  We could debate all day about whether the SNP Tsunami or the 23andMe mess is more important or relevant – and there would be lots of arguing points and counterpoints…see…I told you lawyers were involved….but in reality, we don’t know yet, and in the end….it doesn’t matter what order they are in on the list:)

Y Chromosome SNP Tsunami Begins

The SNP tsumani began as a ripple a few years ago with the introduction at Family Tree DNA of the Walk the Y program in 2007.  This was an intensively manual process of SNP discovery, but it was effective.

By the time that the Geno 2.0 chip was introduced in 2012, 12,000+ SNPs would be included on that chip, including many that were always presumed to be equivalent and not regularly tested.  However, the Nat Geo chip tested them and indeed, the Y tree became massively shuffled.  The resolution to this tree shuffling hasn’t yet come out in the wash.  Family Tree DNA can’t really update their Y tree until a publication comes out with the new tree defined.  That publication has been discussed and anticipated for some time now, but it has yet to materialize.  In the mean time, the volunteers who maintain the ISOGG tree are swamped, to say the least.

Another similar test is the Chromo2 introduced this year by Britain’s DNA which scans 15,000 SNPs, many of them S SNPs not on the tree nor academically published, adding to the difficulty of figuring out where they fit on the Y tree.  While there are some very happy campers with their Chromo2 results, there is also a great deal of sloppy science, reporting and interpretation of “facts” through this company.  Kind of like Jekyll and Hyde.  See the Sloppy Science section.

But Walk the Y, Chromo2 and Geno 2.0, are only the tip of the iceburg.  The new “full Y” sequencing tests brought into the marketspace quietly in early 2013 by Full Genomes and then with a bang by Family Tree DNA with the their Big Y in November promise to revolutionize what we know about the Y chromosome by discovering thousands of previously unknown SNPs.  This will in effect swamp the Y tree whose branches we thought were already pretty robust, with thousands and thousands of leaves.

In essence, the promise of the “fully” sequenced Y is that what we might term personal or family SNPs will make SNP testing as useful as STR testing and give us yet another genealogy tool with which to separate various lines of one genetic family and to ratchet down on the time that the most common recent ancestor lived.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/03/31/new-y-dna-haplogroup-naming-convention/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/11/10/family-tree-dna-announces-the-big-y/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/11/16/what-about-the-big-y/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2013/11/first-look-at-full-genomes-y-sequencing.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-first-look-at-britainsdna-chromo-2-y.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/11/yseqnet-new-company-offering-single-snp.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-y-chromosome-sequence.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-confusion-of-snps.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-simplified-y-tree-and-common-standard.html

23andMe Comes Unraveled

The story of 23andMe began as the consummate American dotcom fairy tale, but sadly, has deteriorated into a saga with all of the components of a soap opera.  A wealthy wife starts what could be viewed as an upscale hobby business, followed by a messy divorce and a mystery run-in with the powerful overlording evil-step-mother FDA.  One of the founders of 23andMe is/was married to the founder of Google, so funding, at least initially wasn’t an issue, giving 23andMe the opportunity to make an unprecedented contribution in the genetic, health care and genetic genealogy world.

Another way of looking at this is that 23andMe is the epitome of the American Dream business, a startup, with altruism and good health, both thrown in for good measure, well intentioned, but poorly managed.  And as customers, be it for health or genealogy or both, we all bought into the altruistic “feel good” culture of helping find cures for dread diseases, like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer by contributing our DNA and responding to surveys.

The genetic genealogy community’s love affair with 23andMe began in 2009 when 23andMe started focusing on genealogy reporting for their tests, meaning cousin matches.  We, as a community, suddenly woke up and started ordering these tests in droves.  A few months later, Family Tree DNA also began offering this type of testing as well.  The defining difference being that 23andMe’s primary focus has always been on health and medical information with Family Tree DNA focused on genetic genealogy.  To 23andMe, the genetic genealogy community was an afterthought and genetic genealogy was just another marketing avenue to obtain more people for their health research data base.  For us, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

For awhile, this love affair went along swimmingly, but then, in 2012, 23andMe obtained a patent for Parkinson’s Disease.  That act caused a lot of people to begin to question the corporate focus of 23andMe in the larger quagmire of the ethics of patenting genes as a whole.  Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, discussed this here.  It’s difficult to defend 23andMe’s Parkinson’s patent while flaying alive Myriad for their BRCA patent.  Was 23andMe really as altruistic as they would have us believe?

Personally, this event made me very nervous, but I withheld judgment.  But clearly, that was not the purpose for which I thought my DNA, and others, was being used.

But then came the Designer Baby patent in 2013.  This made me decidedly uncomfortable.  Yes, I know, some people said this really can’t be done, today, while others said that it’s being done anyway in some aspects…but the fact that this has been the corporate focus of 23andMe with their research, using our data, bothered me a great deal.  I have absolutely no issue with using this information to assure or select for healthy offspring – but I have a personal issue with technology to enable parents who would select a “beauty child,” one with blonde hair and blue eyes and who has the correct muscles to be a star athlete, or cheerleader, or whatever their vision of their as-yet-unconceived “perfect” child would be.  And clearly, based on 23andMe’s own patent submission, that is the focus of their patent.

Upon the issuance of the patent, 23andMe then said they have no intention of using it.  They did not say they won’t sell it.  This also makes absolutely no business sense, to focus valuable corporate resources on something you have no intention of using?  So either they weren’t being truthful, they lack effective management or they’ve changed their mind, but didn’t state such.

What came next, in late 2013 certainly points towards a lack of responsible management.

23andMe had been working with the FDA for approval the health and medical aspect of their product (which they were already providing to consumers prior to the November 22nd cease and desist order) for several years.  The FDA wants assurances that what 23andMe is telling consumers is accurate.  Based on the letter issued to 23andMe on November 22nd, and subsequent commentary, it appears that both entities were jointly working towards that common goal…until earlier this year when 23andMe mysteriously “somehow forgot” about the FDA, the information they owed them, their submissions, etc.  They also forgot their phone number and their e-mail addresses apparently as well, because the FDA said they had heard nothing from them in 6 months, which backdates to May of 2013.

It may be relevant that 23andMe added the executive position of President and filled it in June of 2013, and there was a lot of corporate housecleaning that went on at that time.  However, regardless of who got housecleaned, the responsibility for working with the FDA falls squarely on the shoulders of the founders, owners and executives of the company.  Period.  No excuses.  Something that critically important should be on the agenda of every executive management meeting.   Why?  In terms of corporate risk, this was obviously a very high risk item, perhaps the highest risk item, because the FDA can literally shut their doors and destroy them.  There is little they can do to control or affect the FDA situation, except to work with the FDA, meet deadlines and engender goodwill and a spirit of cooperation.  The risk of not doing that is exactly what happened.

It’s unknown at this time if 23andMe is really that corporately arrogant to think they could simply ignore the FDA, or blatantly corporately negligent or maybe simply corporately stupid, but they surely betrayed the trust and confidence of their customers by failing to meet their commitments with and to the FDA, or even communicate with them.  I mean, really, what were they thinking?

There has been an outpouring of sympathy for 23andme and negative backlash towards the FDA for their letter forcing 23andMe to stop selling their offending medical product, meaning the health portion of their testing.  However, in reality, the FDA was only meting out the consequences that 23andMe asked for.  My teenage kids knew this would happen.  If you do what you’re not supposed to….X, Y and Z will, or won’t, happen.  It’s called accountability.  Just ask my son about his prom….he remembers vividly.  Now why my kids, or 23andMe, would push an authority figure to that point, knowing full well the consequences, utterly mystifies me.  It did when my son was a teenager and it does with 23andMe as well.

Some people think that the FDA is trying to stand between consumers and their health information.  I don’t think so, at least not in this case.  Why I think that is because the FDA left the raw data files alone and they left the genetic genealogy aspect alone.  The FDA knows full well you can download your raw data and for $5 process it at a third party site, obtaining health related genetic information.  The difference is that Promethease is not interpreting any data for you, only providing information.

There is some good news in this and that is that from a genetic genealogy perspective, we seem to be safe, at least for now, from government interference with the testing that has been so productive for genetic genealogy.  The FDA had the perfect opportunity to squish us like a bug (thanks to the opening provided by 23andMe,) and they didn’t.

The really frustrating aspect of this is that 23andMe was a company who, with their deep pockets in Silicon Valley and other investors, could actually afford to wage a fight with the FDA, if need be.  The other companies who received the original 2010 FDA letter all went elsewhere and focused on something else.  But 23andMe didn’t, they decided to fight the fight, and we all supported their decision.  But they let us all down.  The fight they are fighting now is not the battle we anticipated, but one brought upon themselves by their own negligence.  This battle didn’t have to happen, and it may impair them financially to such a degree that if they need to fight the big fight, they won’t be able to.

Right now, 23andMe is selling their kits, but only as an ancestry product as they work through whatever process they are working through with the FDA.  Unfortunately, 23andMe is currently having some difficulties where the majority of matches are disappearing from some testers records.  In other cases, segments that previously matched are disappearing.  One would think, with their only revenue stream for now being the genetic genealogy marketspace that they would be wearing kid gloves and being extremely careful, but apparently not.  They might even consider making some of the changes and enhancements we’ve requested for so long that have fallen on deaf ears.

One thing is for sure, it will be extremely interesting to see where 23andMe is this time next year.  The soap opera continues.

I hope for the sake of all of the health consumers, both current and (potentially) future, that this dotcom fairy tale has a happy ending.

Also, see the Autosomal DNA Comes of Age section.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/05/23andme-patents-technology-for-designer-babies/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2013/10/07/a-new-patent-for-23andme-creates-controversy/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/11/13/genomics-law-review-discusses-designing-children/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2013/06/11/andy-page-fills-new-president-position-at-23andme/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/11/25/fda-orders-23andme-to-discontinue-testing/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/11/26/now-what-23andme-and-the-fda/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/06/23andme-suspends-health-related-genetic-tests/

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/11/26/fooling-with-fda/

Supreme Court Decision – Genes Can’t Be Patented – Followed by Lawsuits

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court determined that genes cannot be patented.  Myriad Genetics held patents on two BRCA genes that predisposed people to cancer.  The cost for the tests through Myriad was about $3000.  Six hours after the Supreme Court decision, Gene By Gene announced that same test for $995.  Other firms followed suit, and all were subsequently sued by Myriad for patent infringement.  I was shocked by this, but as one of my lawyer friends clearly pointed out, you can sue anyone for anything.  Making it stick is yet another matter.  Many firms settle to avoid long and very expensive legal battles.  Clearly, this issue is not yet resolved, although one would think a Supreme Court decision would be pretty definitive.  It potentially won’t be settled for a long time.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/06/13/supreme-court-decision-genes-cant-be-patented/

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/06/14/our-dna-cant-be-patented/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/09/07/message-from-bennett-greenspan-free-my-genes/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2013/06/13/new-press-release-from-dnatraits-regarding-the-supreme-courts-holding-in-myriad/

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/08/18/testing-firms-land-counterpunch/

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/07/11/myriad-sues-genetic-testing-firms/

Gene By Gene Steps Up, Ramps Up and Produces

As 23andMe comes unraveled and Ancestry languishes in its mediocrity, Gene by Gene, the parent company of Family Tree DNA has stepped up to the plate, committed to do “whatever it takes,” ramped up the staff both through hiring and acquisitions, and is producing results.  This is, indeed, a breath of fresh air for genetic genealogists, as well as a welcome relief.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/08/07/gene-by-gene-acquires-arpeggi/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/05/family-tree-dna-listens-and-acts/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/10/family-tree-dnas-family-finder-match-matrix-released/

http://www.haplogroup.org/ftdna-family-finder-matches-get-new-look/

http://www.haplogroup.org/ftdna-family-finder-new-look-2/

http://www.haplogroup.org/ftdna-family-finder-matches-new-look-3/

Autosomal DNA Comes of Age

Autosomal DNA testing and analysis has simply exploded this past year.  More and more people are testing, in part, because Ancestry.com has a captive audience in their subscription data base and more than a quarter million of those subscribers have purchased autosomal DNA tests.  That’s a good thing, in general, but there are some negative aspects relative to Ancestry, which are in the Ancestry section.

Another boon to autosomal testing was the 23andMe push to obtain a million records.  Of course, the operative word here is “was” but that may revive when the FDA issue is resolved.  One of the down sides to the 23andMe data base, aside from the fact that it’s not genealogist friendly, is that so many people, about 90%, don’t communicate.  They aren’t interested in genealogy.

A third factor is that Family Tree DNA has provided transfer ability for files from both 23andMe and Ancestry into their data base.

Fourth is the site, GedMatch, at www.gedmatch.com which provides additional matching and admixture tools and the ability to match below thresholds set by the testing companies.  This is sometimes critically important, especially when comparing to known cousins who just don’t happen to match at the higher thresholds, for example.  Unfortunately, not enough people know about GedMatch, or are willing to download their files.  Also unfortunate is that GedMatch has struggled for the past few months to keep up with the demand placed on their site and resources.

A great deal of time this year has been spent by those of us in the education aspect of genetic genealogy, in whatever our capacity, teaching about how to utilize autosomal results. It’s not necessarily straightforward.  For example, I wrote a 9 part series titled “The Autosomal Me” which detailed how to utilize chromosome mapping for finding minority ethnic admixture, which was, in my case, both Native and African American.

As the year ends, we have Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry who offer the autosomal test which includes the relative-matching aspect.  Fortunately, we also have third party tools like www.GedMatch.com and www.DNAGedcom.com, without which we would be significantly hamstrung.  In the case of DNAGedcom, we would be unable to perform chromosome segment matching and triangulation with 23andMe data without Rob Warthen’s invaluable tool.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/06/21/triangulation-for-autosomal-dna/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/07/13/combining-tools-autosomal-plus-y-dna-mtdna-and-the-x-chromosome/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/07/26/family-tree-dna-levels-the-playing-field-sort-of/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/08/03/kitty-coopers-chromsome-mapping-tool-released/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/09/29/why-dont-i-match-my-cousin/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/03/family-tree-dna-updates-family-finder-and-adds-triangulation/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/21/why-are-my-predicted-cousin-relationships-wrong/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/05/family-tree-dna-listens-and-acts/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/09/chromosome-mapping-aka-ancestor-mapping/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/10/family-tree-dnas-family-finder-match-matrix-released/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/15/one-chromosome-two-sides-no-zipper-icw-and-the-matrix/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/06/02/the-autosomal-me-summary-and-pdf-file/

DNAGedcom – Indispensable Third Party Tool

While this tool, www.dnagedcom.com, falls into the Autosomal grouping, I have separated it out for individual mention because without this tool, the progress made this year in autosomal DNA ancestor and chromosomal mapping would have been impossible.  Family Tree DNA has always provided segment matching boundaries through their chromosome browser tool, but until recently, you could only download 5 matches at a time.  This is no longer the case, but for most of the year, Rob’s tool saved us massive amounts of time.

23andMe does not provide those chromosome boundaries, but utilizing Rob’s tool, you can obtain each of your matches in one download, and then you can obtain the list of who your matches match that is also on your match list by requesting each of those files separately.  Multiple steps?  Yes, but it’s the only way to obtain this information, and chromosome mapping without the segment data is impossible

A special hats off to Rob.  Please remember that Rob’s site is free, meaning it’s donation based.  So, please donate if you use the tool.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2013/01/brought-to-you-by-adoptiondna.html

I covered www.Gedmatch.com in the “Best of 2012” list, but they have struggled this year, beginning when Ancestry announced that raw data file downloads were available.  GedMatch consists of two individuals, volunteers, who are still struggling to keep up with the required processing and the tools.  They too are donation based, so don’t forget about them if you utilize their tools.

Ancestry – How Great Thou Aren’t

Ancestry is only on this list because of what they haven’t done.  When they initially introduced their autosomal product, they didn’t have any search capability, they didn’t have a chromosome browser and they didn’t have raw data file download capability, all of which their competitors had upon first release.  All they did have was a list of your matches, with their trees listed, with shakey leaves if you shared a common ancestor on your tree.  The implication, was, and is, of course, that if you have a DNA match and a shakey leaf, that IS your link, your genetic link, to each other.  Unfortunately, that is NOT the case, as CeCe Moore documented in her blog from Rootstech (starting just below the pictures) as an illustration of WHY we so desperately need a chromosome browser tool.

In a nutshell, Ancestry showed the wrong shakey leaf as the DNA connection – as proven by the fact that both of CeCe’s parents have tested at Ancestry and the shakey leaf person doesn’t match the requisite parent.  And there wasn’t just one, not two, but three instances of this.  What this means is, of course, that the DNA match and the shakey leaf match are entirely independent of each other.  In fact, you could have several common ancestors, but the DNA at any particular location comes only from one on either Mom or Dad’s side – any maybe not even the shakey leaf person.

So what Ancestry customers are receiving is a list of people they match and possible links, but most of them have no idea that this is the case, and blissfully believe they have found their genetic connection.  They have found a genealogical cousin, and it MIGHT be the genetic connection.  But then again, they could have found that cousin simply by searching for the same ancestor in Ancestry’s data base.  No DNA needed.

Ancestry has added a search feature, allowed raw data file downloads (thank you) and they have updated their ethnicity predictions.  The ethnicity predictions are certainly different, dramatically different, but equally as unrealistic.  See the Ethnicity Makeovers section for more on this.  The search function helps, but what we really need is the chromosome browser, which they have steadfastly avoided promising.  Instead, they have said that they will give us “something better,” but nothing has materialized.

I want to take this opportunity, to say, as loudly as possible, that TRUST ME IS NOT ACCEPTABLE in any way, shape or form when it comes to genetic matching.  I’m not sure what Ancestry has in mind by the way of “better,” but it if it’s anything like the mediocrity with which their existing DNA products have been rolled out, neither I nor any other serious genetic genealogist will be interested, satisfied or placated.

Regardless, it’s been nearly 2 years now.  Ancestry has the funds to do development.  They are not a small company.  This is obviously not a priority because they don’t need to develop this feature.  Why is this?  Because they can continue to sell tests and to give shakey leaves to customers, most of whom don’t understand the subtle “untruth” inherent in that leaf match – so are quite blissfully happy.

In years past, I worked in the computer industry when IBM was the Big Dog against whom everyone else competed.  I’m reminded of an old joke.  The IBM sales rep got married, and on his wedding night, he sat on the edge of the bed all night long regaling his bride in glorious detail with stories about just how good it was going to be….

You can sign a petition asking Ancestry to provide a chromosome browser here, and you can submit your request directly to Ancestry as well, although to date, this has not been effective.

The most frustrating aspect of this situation is that Ancestry, with their plethora of trees, savvy marketing and captive audience testers really was positioned to “do it right,” and hasn’t, at least not yet.  They seem to be more interested in selling kits and providing shakey leaves that are misleading in terms of what they mean than providing true tools.  One wonders if they are afraid that their customers will be “less happy” when they discover the truth and not developing a chromosome browser is a way to keep their customers blissfully in the dark.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/03/21/downloading-ancestrys-autosomal-dna-raw-data-file/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/03/24/ancestry-needs-another-push-chromosome-browser/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/17/ancestrys-updated-v2-ethnicity-summary/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2013/06/21/new-search-features-at-ancestrydna-and-a-sneak-peek-at-new-ethnicity-estimates/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2013/03/ancestrydna-raw-data-and-rootstech.html

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/09/15/dna-disappointment/

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/09/13/ancestrydna-begins-rollout-of-update/

Ancient DNA

This has been a huge year for advances in sequencing ancient DNA, something once thought unachievable.  We have learned a great deal, and there are many more skeletal remains just begging to be sequenced.  One absolutely fascinating find is that all people not African (and some who are African through backmigration) carry Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA.  Just this week, evidence of yet another archaic hominid line has been found in Neanderthal DNA and on Christmas Day, yet another article stating that type 2 Diabetes found in Native Americans has roots in their Neanderthal ancestors. Wow!

Closer to home, by several thousand years is the suggestion that haplogroup R did not exist in Europe after the ice age, and only later, replaced most of the population which, for males, appears to have been primarily haplogroup G.  It will be very interesting as the data bases of fully sequenced skeletons are built and compared.  The history of our ancestors is held in those precious bones.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/01/10/decoding-and-rethinking-neanderthals/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/07/04/ancient-dna-analysis-from-canada/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/07/10/5500-year-old-grandmother-found-using-dna/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/25/ancestor-of-native-americans-in-asia-was-30-western-eurasian/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/11/12/2013-family-tree-dna-conference-day-2/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/11/22/native-american-gene-flow-europe-asia-and-the-americas/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/05/400000-year-old-dna-from-spain-sequenced/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2013/10/16/identifying-otzi-the-icemans-relatives/

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/12/recordings-of-royal-societys-ancient.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/02/richard-iii-king-is-found.html

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/22/sequencing-of-neanderthal-toe-bone-reveals-unknown-hominin-line/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/26/native-americans-neanderthal-and-denisova-admixture/

http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2013/12/ancient-dna-what-2013-has-brought.html

Sloppy Science and Sensationalist Reporting

Unfortunately, as DNA becomes more mainstream, it becomes a target for both sloppy science or intentional misinterpretation, and possibly both.  Unfortunately, without academic publication, we can’t see results or have the sense of security that comes from the peer review process, so we don’t know if the science and conclusions stand up to muster.

The race to the buck in some instances is the catalyst for this. In other cases, and not in the links below, some people intentionally skew interpretations and results in order to either fulfill their own belief agenda or to sell “products and services” that invariably report specific findings.

It’s equally as unfortunate that much of these misconstrued and sensationalized results are coming from a testing company that goes by the names of BritainsDNA, ScotlandsDNA, IrelandsDNA and YorkshiresDNA. It certainly does nothing for their credibility in the eyes of people who are familiar with the topics at hand, but it does garner a lot of press and probably sells a lot of kits to the unwary.

I hope they publish their findings so we can remove the “sloppy science” aspect of this.  Sensationalist reporting, while irritating, can be dealt with if the science is sound.  However, until the results are published in a peer-reviewed academic journal, we have no way of knowing.

Thankfully, Debbie Kennett has been keeping her thumb on this situation, occurring primarily in the British Isles.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/08/24/you-might-be-a-pict-if/

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-british-genetic-muddle-by-alistair.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/12/setting-record-straight-about-sara.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/09/private-eye-on-britainsdna.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/07/private-eye-on-prince-williams-indian.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/06/britainsdna-times-and-prince-william.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/03/sense-about-genealogical-dna-testing.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/03/sense-about-genetic-ancestry-testing.html

Citizen Science is Coming of Age

Citizen science has been slowing coming of age over the past few years.  By this, I mean when citizen scientists work as part of a team on a significant discovery or paper.  Bill Hurst comes to mind with his work with Dr. Doron Behar on his paper, A Copernican Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA from its Root or what know as the RSRS model.  As the years have progressed, more and more discoveries have been made or assisted by citizen scientists, sometimes through our projects and other times through individual research.  JOGG, the Journal of Genetic Genealogy, which is currently on hiatus waiting for Dr. Turi King, the new editor, to become available, was a great avenue for peer reviewed publication.  Recently, research projects have been set up by citizen scientists, sometimes crowd-funded, for specific areas of research.  This is a very new aspect to scientific research, and one not before utilized.

The first paper below includes the Family Tree DNA Lab, Thomas and Astrid Krahn, then with Family Tree DNA and Bonnie Schrack, genetic genealogist and citizen scientist, along with Dr. Michael Hammer from the University of Arizona and others.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/03/26/family-tree-dna-research-center-facilitates-discovery-of-ancient-root-to-y-tree/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/04/10/diy-dna-analysis-genomeweb-and-citizen-scientist-2-0/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/06/27/big-news-probable-native-american-haplogroup-breakthrough/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/07/22/citizen-science-strikes-again-this-time-in-cameroon/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/11/30/native-american-haplogroups-q-c-and-the-big-y-test/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2013/03/citizen-science-helps-to-rewrite-y.html

Ethnicity Makeovers – Still Not Soup

Unfortunately, ethnicity percentages, as provided by the major testing companies still disappoint more than thrill, at least for those who have either tested at more than one lab or who pretty well know their ethnicity via an extensive pedigree chart.

Ancestry.com is by far the worse example, swinging like a pendulum from one extreme to the other.  But I have to hand it to them, their marketing is amazing.  When I signed in, about to discover that my results had literally almost reversed, I was greeted with the banner “a new you.”  Yea, a new me, based on Ancestry’s erroneous interpretation.  And by reversed, I’m serious.  I went from 80% British Isles to 6% and then from 0% Western Europe to 79%. So now, I have an old wrong one and a new wrong one – and indeed they are very different.  Of course, neither one is correct…..but those are just pesky details…

23andMe updated their ethnicity product this year as well, and fine tuned it yet another time.  My results at 23andMe are relatively accurate.  I saw very little change, but others saw more.  Some were pleased, some not.

The bottom line is that ethnicity tools are not well understood by consumers in terms of the timeframe that is being revealed, and it’s not consistent between vendors, nor are the results.  In some cases, they are flat out wrong, as with Ancestry, and can be proven.  This does not engender a great deal of confidence.  I only view these results as “interesting” or utilize them in very specific situations and then only using the individual admixture tools at www.Gedmatch.com on individual chromosome segments.

As Judy Russell says, “it’s not soup yet.”  That doesn’t mean it’s not interesting though, so long as you understand the difference between interesting and gospel.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/08/05/autosomal-dna-ancient-ancestors-ethnicity-and-the-dandelion/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/04/ethnicity-results-true-or-not/

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/09/15/dna-disappointment/

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/09/my-updated-ethnicity-results-from.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Cruwysnews+%28Cruwys+news%29

http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/17/ancestrys-updated-v2-ethnicity-summary/

http://dna-explained.com/2013/10/19/determining-ethnicity-percentages/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2013/09/12/ancestrydna-launches-new-ethnicity-estimate/

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-first-look-at-chromo-2-all-my.html

Genetic Genealogy Education Goes Mainstream

With the explosion of genetic genealogy testing, as one might expect, the demand for education, and in particular, basic education has exploded as well.

I’ve written a 101 series, Kelly Wheaton wrote a series of lessons and CeCe Moore did as well.  Recently Family Tree DNA has also sponsored a series of free Webinars.  I know that at least one book is in process and very near publication, hopefully right after the first of the year.  We saw several conferences this year that provided a focus on Genetic Genealogy and I know several are planned for 2014.  Genetic genealogy is going mainstream!!!  Let’s hope that 2014 is equally as successful and that all these folks asking for training and education become avid genetic genealogists.

http://dna-explained.com/2013/08/10/ngs-series-on-dna-basics-all-4-parts/

https://sites.google.com/site/wheatonsurname/home

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/08/getting-started-in-dna-testing-for.html

http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/17/free-webinars-from-family-tree-dna/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2013/06/09/the-first-dna-day-at-the-southern-california-genealogy-society-jamboree/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2013/06/the-first-ever-independent-genetic.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/10/genetic-genealogy-comes-to-ireland.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/03/wdytya-live-day-3-part-2-new-ancient.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/03/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-day-3.html

http://cruwys.blogspot.com/2013/03/who-do-you-think-you-are-live-2013-days.html

http://genealem-geneticgenealogy.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-surnames-handbook-guide-to-family.html

http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Beginners%27_guides_to_genetic_genealogy

A Thank You in Closing

I want to close by taking a minute to thank the thousands of volunteers who make such a difference.  All of the project administrators at Family Tree DNA are volunteers, and according to their website, there are 7829 projects, all of which have at least one administrator, and many have multiple administrators.  In addition, everyone who answers questions on a list or board or on Facebook is a volunteer.  Many donate their time to coordinate events, groups, or moderate online facilities.  Many speak at events or for groups.  Many more write articles for publications from blogs to family newsletters.  Additionally, there are countless websites today that include DNA results…all created and run by volunteers, not the least of which is the ISOGG site with the invaluable ISOGG wiki.  Without our volunteer army, there would be no genetic genealogy community.  Thank you, one and all.

2013 has been a banner year, and 2014 holds a great deal of promise, even without any surprises.  And if there is one thing this industry is well known for….it’s surprises.  I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for us!!!  All I can say is hold on tight….

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Gene by Gene Genomics Research Center Lab Tour

 ftdna inside sign cropped

Both before and after the 9th Annual Family Tree DNA International Conference for Genetic Genealogy this past weekend, Max Blankfeld and Bennett Greenspan were gracious enough to allow interested administrators to visit and tour their labs.  I’ve toured other DNA labs, but their lab has very cool leading edge equipment.  It was a wonderful treat to see it in action.

What I didn’t have was my “good” camera, so I’m sharing my iPhone photos.

I went on the last tour available and there were only a few of us, so it an excellent opportunity to see things up close and personal.

ftdna genomics research center

This lab is much larger than I expected.  Gene by Gene, in addition to doing all of the DNA processing for Family Tree DNA, DNA Traits and the National Geographic Genographic project, is doing a significant amount of processing for research institutions such as medical schools. While we were there, they were getting ready to prep to run a large order of several hundred exome samples.

But come along with me and you can see for yourself.  Bennett gave the tour personally.  The bad news is that you’re going to have to rely on my memory, because nothing was allowed in the lab other than our cameras.  This was to prevent contamination.

ftdna lisa footies

There are other contamination prevention methods as well.  Anyone with open toed shoes had to put on booties.  Here’s my friend Lisa, who comments periodically on my blog, suiting up for the tour.  Next, we were given lab coats to wear inside the facility which we then took off and left by the door, but inside the lab, as we left.

ftdna lisa lab coat

The first stop inside is where they prepare the kits for shipping to customers when an order is placed.  They purchase the empty vials, prepare the formula and fill and cap the vials, all automatically.

ftdna vials for kit

The “capping” process is the most interesting part and caused them the most consternation in trying to figure out the best way to do this.  Bennett said they worried about having a non-tethered lid that might be dropped by the customer, and contaminated, as it turns out, needlessly.

After the kits come back, all but one of the vials goes into storage, shown below, beside the lab, for future testing.  This environment does not have to be specially controlled outside of a normal office environment.

ftdna sample storage

The vial that gets opened for the testing undergoes a different process that begins with removing the DNA from the vial and mixing it with a chemical solution that shakes the DNA out of the cells.

ftdna lab

This is done overnight in a shaker machine.  Reminded me of a paint shaker.

ftdna shaker

Have you ever seen a custom $600,000 freezer with a robot to retrieve the frozen goods?  No?  Well, you’re about to.  If you have ever tested with Family Tree DNA and there is any DNA left in a vial that has been opened, it’s in this freezer which took the vendor 7 weeks to assemble on site.  Capacity is over 550,000 vials and it’s about half full currently.

After the DNA is shaken out of the cells, that mixture has to be handled differently.  It has been barcoded during the entire process and the prepared DNA mixture is then put into storage plates which are robotically stored.  This retrieval process is initiated when an order is received by the robotic software.  Keep in mind that the unit holds more samples than Family Tree DNA has today, in a very regulated deep freeze environment.  Depending on what this robotic arm is doing, meaning moving plates around or extracting a specific vial, it changes its own tool on the end of its arm.  It knows where every vial is in the freezer.  I must admit, my Mom who has been gone since 2006 has DNA there and it made me feel kind of funny to know I was visiting “her.” But my DNA is with hers, along with a whole lot of other family members, so I guess it’s just one big family reunion in there.

After the correct vial is retrieved and the DNA mixture is extracted, the liquid is put onto a “chip” for the autosomal testing.  The chip itself is about an inch by maybe 3 inches and holds 12 tests.

ftdna chip 12

The DNA is pipetted into the side and then it is wicked into the chip itself.

ftdna loading dna on chip

Here is a set of two chips loaded and ready to be processed.  This means that at total of 24 individual samples are being sequenced.   Notice the little grey square to the size of each larger grey square.  That tiny grey square is where the DNA mixture it placed and it’s wicked into the larger grey square for processing.  We asked how that is done and were told that the technique is part of Illumina’s trade secrets.

ftdna chip loaded

Gene by Gene owns several sequencing machines.  I know they have at least two Sanger sequencing machines and 4 different sizes and types of Illumina sequencing machines that run chip based tests like the Geno 2, the Family Finder and now the Big Y tests, in addition to the exome and full genome tests.  These machines are incredible given that they can run hundreds of tests at a time, which is also how they have dropped the test costs exponentially in the past few years.  Some equipment is optimized for running many samples but more slowly and some for running fewer samples but more quickly.

ftdna sequencer

After reading and being automatically scored, the DNA results are reported to the client.

At the end of the lab tour, just outside, is the Customer Service area where the Customer Service Reps work.  I’ll tell you what, they had their hands full this week and weekend with their regular call load, a conference and an office full of nosey and interested project administrators.

ftdna csr area

Of course, during the course of the day, I had to visit the restroom.  I’ve always loved Max and Bennett’s sense of humor.

ftdna men cropped

In case you don’t know, the Y chromosome is much smaller than the X, hence, the difference in the signs.

 ftdna women

Let’s just say that in light of their new product announcement, the “Big Y,” I did a bit of a structural modification for them:)

ftdna men big

Thanks again to Max and Bennett for their hospitality.

Jennifer Zinck also wrote about the Friday lab tour on her blog, Ancestor Central.

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Supreme Court Decision – Genes Can’t Be Patented

In a victory for consumers, patients, researchers and women, the Supreme Court today returned a decision that human genes cannot be patented.

Their decision states that DNA ”is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.”

This case was a result of a suit against Myriad Genetics, a company that was granted patents for isolating two human genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, both of which are well known breast cancer genes, recently brought to light by Angelina Jolie’s decision to have preventative mastectomys after both the gene and related breast cancer were found to be prevalent in her family.  Shortly after that decision and surgery, Jolie’s aunt died of breast cancer.

While companies cannot patent the genes themselves, they can develop treatments and hopefully, cures, and those can be patented.  Synthetic genes created are also eligible for patents.  Myriad wasn’t the only company to do this.  The government has issued patents to over 4000 genes to both companies and universities.

The patenting of genes made it impossible for other competing companies who could test for the gene technically to do so.  In other words, it artificially created a sole supplier situation where only one company could provide the test for that gene, and therefore could set the price wherever they wanted.  Jolie revealed that the cost of screening for those two genes alone was $3000, a cost prohibitive to many women.  However, the actual cost of the testing is significantly less.  I was wondering just how much less, then the answer arrived in my inbox.

I know that Gene by Gene, through its division, DNA Traits has the capability to offer this test and has been selling it internationally since 2012.  Bennett Greenspan, president of Gene by Gene has discussed this with me privately, and how terribly it pained him not to be able to do this testing to help people within the US.  Bennett shared some pretty profound thoughts about the unfair situation this created.

I was just getting ready to call Bennett, when less than 6 hours after the Supreme Court decision, I received an e-mail from Gene by Gene, which contained the answer – $995.  So the actual cost to the American consumer is only about one third to one quarter of what they were being charged as a result of the patent.

Today’s Supreme Court decision is truly a victory for patients, consumers, researchers, women and all US citizens.  Below is the content of the e-mail I received from Gene by Gene announcing the ability for DNATraits to sell the BRCA test in the US.

dnatraits brca

In effort to increase access to potentially lifesaving BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests, DNATraits can now offer tests for $995, a fraction of the cost of similar tests prior to the court decision

HOUSTON — Jun. 13, 2013 – Thanks to today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision opening the door to greater access to genetic medicine by American patients and their health care providers, testing for genes specifically linked to breast, ovarian and other cancers will now be more widely available and at a lower cost than ever before.

DNATraits, a division of Houston-based genomics and genetics testing company Gene By Gene, Ltd., announced today that it will offer testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in the United States for $995.  Prior to today’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling, when exorbitant licensing fees kept DNATraits and others from offering BRCA gene tests in the United States, the cost for such tests was around $4,000.

“We’re pleased to make this important testing more widely available and accessible in the United States,” said Gene By Gene President Bennett Greenspan.  “Our highly automated CLIA-registered lab and efficient processes enable us to make genetic and genomic testing more affordable and accessible to more individuals, in the U.S. and worldwide.  And that’s our company’s mission, in a nutshell.”

The company’s announcement about the tests, which gained national attention when actress Angelina Jolie courageously revealed in May that being a BRCA1 carrier was among the factors in her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy, comes after today’s Supreme Court ruling in “Association For Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics.”

“We commend the Supreme Court for opening the door to greater technological innovation and access to genetic tools that promise to save and improve the quality of human lives in the United States,” Greenspan added.  “It’s critical that as an industry we are able to continue to engage in healthy competition to drive down the costs of these tests – because as more individuals have access to and undergo them, the more information we’ll have about many serious diseases that eventually may lead to cures.”

DNATraits has processed testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for individuals living outside the U.S. since 2012.  Those genes are processed using traditional Sanger DNA sequencing, which is considered the gold standard for DNA analysis, at the company’s Genomic Research Center in Houston, a CLIA-registered lab which has processed more than 5 million discrete DNA tests from more than 700,000 individuals and organizations globally.

In addition to the BRCA gene tests, DNATraits offers a pre-natal array that covers 111 population specific diseases, as well as other not population-specific diseases, like Duchene Muscular Dystrophy.

Customer Inquiries

Individuals interested in learning more about either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 tests should ask their doctors for more information.  They and their health care providers can also visit the company’s website, www.dnatraits.com, or call (713) 868-1438 for more information.

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Family Tree DNA Research Center Facilitates Discovery of Ancient Root to Y Tree

The genetic genealogy community has been abuzz for months now with the discovery of the new Root of the Y tree.  First announced last fall at the conference for DNA administrators hosted by Family Tree DNA, this discovery has literally changed the landscape of early genetic genealogy and our understanding of the timeframe of the origins of mankind.  While it doesn’t make much difference in genetic genealogy in the past few generations, since the adoption of surnames, it certainly makes a difference to all of us in terms of our ancestors and where we came from – our origins.  After all, the only difference between current genetic genealogy and the journey of mankind is a matter of generations – and all of our ancestors were there, and survived to reproduce, or we wouldn’t be here.

One of the important aspects of this discovery is the collaboration of citizen scientists with academic institutions and corporations.  In this case, the citizen scientist was Bonnie Schrack, a volunteer haplogroup project administrator, Dr. Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona, National Geographic’s Genographic Project, and Drs. Thomas Krahn and Astrid Krahn, both with the Gene by Gene Genomics Research Center.  Without any one of these players, and Family Tree DNA’s support of projects, this discovery would not have been made.  This discovery of the “new root” legitimizes citizen science in the field of genetic genealogy and ushers in a new day in scientific research in which crowd sourced samples, in this case, through Family Tree DNA projects, provide clues and resources for important scientific discoveries.

Today Gene by Gene released a press release about the discovery of the new root.  In conjunction, Family Tree DNA has lowered their Y DNA test price to $39 for the introductory 12 marker panel for the month of March, hoping to attract new participants and to eliminate price as a factor.  On April 1, the price will increase to $49, still a 50% discount from the previous $99.  Who knows where that next discovery lies.  Could it be in your DNA?

Family Tree DNA’s Genomics Research Center Facilitates Discovery of Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree

HOUSTON, March 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/   — Gene By Gene, Ltd., the Houston-based   genomics and genetics testing company, announced that a unique DNA sample submitted via National Geographic’s Genographic Project to its genetic genealogy subsidiary, Family Tree DNA, led to the discovery that the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree is potentially as old as 338,000 years.  This new information indicates that the last common ancestor of all modern Y chromosomes is 70 percent older than previously thought.

The surprising findings were published in the report “An African American Paternal Lineage Adds an Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree” in The   American Journal of Human Genetics earlier this month.  The study was conducted by a team of top research scientists, including lead scientist Dr. Michael F. Hammer of   the University of Arizona, who currently serves on Gene By Gene’s advisory board, and two of the company’s staff scientists, Drs.Thomas and Astrid-Maria Krahn.

The DNA sample had originally been submitted to National Geographic’s Genographic Project, the world’s largest “citizen science” genetic research effort with more than 500,000 public participants to date, and was later transferred to Family Tree DNA’s database for genealogical research.  Once in Family Tree DNA’s database, long-time project administrator Bonnie Schrack noticed that the sample was very unique and advocated for further testing to be done.

“This whole discovery began, really, with a citizen scientist – someone very similar to our many customers who are interested in learning more about their family roots using one of our genealogy products,” said Gene By Gene President Bennett Greenspan.  “While reviewing samples in our database, she recognized that this specific sample was unique and  brought it to the attention of our scientists to do further testing.  The results were astounding and show the value of individuals undergoing DNA testing so that we can continue to grow our databases and discover additional critical information about human origins and evolution.”

The discovery took place at Family Tree DNA’s Genomic Research Center, a CLIA registered lab in Houston which has processed more than 5 million discrete DNA tests from more than 700,000 individuals and organizations, including participants in the Genographic Project.  Drs. Thomas and Astrid-Maria Krahn of Family Tree DNA conducted the company’s Walk-Through-Y test on the sample and during the scoring process, quickly realized the unique nature of the sample, given the vast number of mutations.  Following their initial findings, Dr. Hammer and others joined to conduct a formal study, sequencing ~240 kb of the chromosome sample to identify private, derived mutations on this lineage, which has been named A00.

“Our findings indicate that the last common Y chromosome ancestor may have lived long before the first anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa about 195,000 years ago,” said Dr. Michael Hammer.  “Furthermore, the sample, which came from an African American man living in South Carolina, matched Y chromosome DNA of males from a very small area in western Cameroon, indicating that the lineage is extremely rare in Africa today, and its presence in the US is likely due to the Atlantic slave trade.  This is a huge discovery for our field and shows the critical role direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies can play in science; this might not have been known otherwise.”

Family Tree DNA recently dramatically reduced the price of its basic Y-DNA test by approximately 50%.  By offering the lowest-cost DNA test available on the market today, Gene By Gene and Family Tree DNA are working to eliminate cost as a barrier to individuals introducing themselves to personal genetic and genomic research.  They hope that expanding the pool of DNA samples in their database will lead to future important scientific discoveries.

About Gene By Gene, Ltd. 
Founded in 2000, Gene By Gene, Ltd. provides reliable DNA testing to a wide range of consumer and institutional customers through its four divisions focusing on ancestry, health, research and paternity.  Gene By Gene provides DNA tests through its Family Tree DNA division, which pioneered the concept of direct-to-consumer testing in the field of genetic genealogy more than a decade ago.  Gene by Gene is CLIA registered and through its clinical-health division DNA Traits offers regulated diagnostic  tests.  DNA DTC is the Research Use Only (RUO) division serving both direct-to-consumer and institutional clients   worldwide.  Gene By Gene offers AABB certified relationship tests through its paternity testing division, DNA Findings. The privately held company is headquartered in Houston, which is also home to its state-of-the-art Genomics Research Center.

SOURCE Gene By Gene, Ltd.

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The Genomics Revolution 13 Years Later – Bennett Greenspan

Bennett GreenspanOn April 29, 2013, from 11 AM-12 noon, Bennett Greenspan will be the featured speaker in the CSE Distinguished Lecture Series in the Georgia Tech Auditorium located in the Technology Square Research Building, 85 Fifth Street, Atlanta, Georgia, 30332.

Bennett will be speaking about bridging the gap between traditional genealogy and genetics, and will be discussing the various kinds of testing and when each is important.  He will also be talking about new technology, exome and full genome sequencing and how that will be important to individuals.

Always a man with his eye on the horizon, thankfully for genetic genealogists, Bennett says the genomic revolution has just begun.

Bennett is speaking at the Bremen Museum on Sunday, April 28th at 2PM about using DNA to settle family disputes, connect to long-lost relatives and to garner an appreciation for where your ancestors came from and where they journeyed since our departure from Africa.

For those who have never heard Bennett speak, he is an exceptional speaker and makes genetic genealogy not only understandable, but very attractive to the novice.  Being a genealogist before genetic genealogy, a field established by Family Tree DNA, he brings a very powerful personal story to the table.  He has a way of speaking and simplifying the complex that resonates with people.

This is also a rare opportunity to hear someone personally who has directly caused a technology revolution.  Bennett founded Family Tree DNA in 2000, actually, almost by accident, as a result of the process he went through trying to answer one of his own long-standing genealogy questions.

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to attend one or both of these presentations.  Even though I’ve heard Bennett many times, if I were anyplace to close to Atlanta, you can bet I’d be in the audience.  Hearing Bennett speak makes me fall in love with genetic genealogy all over again!

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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Personal Genetics – Coming out of the Closet – Ostriches, Eagles and Fear

Ostrich

While most of the people subscribing to this blog are here because of genetic genealogy, genetic genealogy is only one piece of the picture of the future of personal genetics.  Ironically, it’s genetic genealogy that gave low cost genetics a push into the mainstream, some 7 or 8 years before 23andMe, the first personal health genetics company, launched in 2006.

This week, the magazine, ieee Spectrum, of all places, has an absolutely wonderful article, The Gene Machine and Me, about the future of personal genetics.  Many of these types of articles are sensationalized and full of what I call “fear-mongering,” but this one is not only excellently written, it’s accurate and interesting – a triple hitter home run as far as I’m concerned.

I’d like to talk for just a minute or two about the high points in this article, about this emerging technology, what it means to us and about fear.  I’ll be sharing my personal journey down this path.

For those who would like to know how next-generation technology works – by the way – that’s the chip technology employed by Family Tree DNA for the Family Finder product, 23andMe for all of their testing and the National Geographic Geno 2.0 project – this article has a very educational description that is understandable by regular air-breathing humans.  The next-next generation sequencing, discussed here and offered shortly by Ion Torrent, will certainly revolutionize personal genetics much as the Illlumina genotyping chip technology has today.

The benefit of full genomic and exome sequencing, the new technology on the horizon for consumers, is in the information it will tell us about ourselves.  And I’m not referring to genealogy here, although that assuredly will be a big beneficiary of this new world of personal genetics.  For genealogists, there is mention of soon-to-be capabilities of sequencing from one single molecule of DNA.  For those of us with hair brushes and toothbrushes that we’ve been jealously guarding for years now, waiting for the technology to improve to the point where we can obtain the DNA of our dearly departed loved ones, this is going to be our ticket.  As excited as I am about that, that’s not the potential I’m talking about.  I’m talking about information about our own bodies and the potential future foretold in those genes.  Notice the word potential.

The information in our genes is seldom a death sentence.  In rare cases, it is, such as Huntington’s Disease.  If this disease runs in your family, you already know it and testing should be done in conjunction with genetic and/or medical counseling.  For these people, DNA testing will either confirm that they carry that gene, or relieve their mind that they do not.

For the vast majority of us, the information held in our genes it much less dire.  In fact, it’s a good news message, as it will provide us ample warning, an opportunity, to do something differently with our lives to prevent what might otherwise occur.  So it’s not a death sentence, more of a life sentence.  For me, it was an epiphany.  Yes, I took positive action and made dramatic life changes as a result of my DNA test results.  In essence, this is my “coming out” story.

I was one of the first people to order the new 23andMe test when it was first offered, mostly for the genealogy aspect, but as you know, it includes health traits and information.  When I received the results of that test a few years ago, in black and white, where I could not possibly ignore them, the reports indicated that I was at elevated risk for certain conditions.  Those conditions were certainly beginning to manifest themselves in my life.  I was on medication for two of them.  My weight, at the time, was certainly a contributing factor to the development of those conditions.  My sister had died near the age I am now as a result of those conditions.  She looked like me, was built like me, was heavy like me, and very probably carried those exact same genetic risk factors.  Our grandfather died of the same thing about the same age.  Our father had it too, but he died in a car accident – caused by a coronary episode, at age 61.  Seeing this, in black and white, and knowing my family history, I decided to do something to prevent that future, or at least to delay or mitigate it as much as possible.

I lost over 100 pounds and yes, for almost 5 years now, I’ve maintained that weight loss, well except for a pesky 10 or 15 pounds that I fight with regularly.  But still, the 100 pound loss is far more important than the 10-15 pounds I battle with.  I am off of all medication related to those and related conditions.  I’ve changed what and how I eat, and a benefit I really didn’t anticipate is how much better I feel.  You have no idea how much I hate these old pictures of me when I was heavy.  This was taken at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington DC, in 2005, at our DNA Conference.

Me Nat Geo 2005

This next photo is me at one of our Lost Colony archaeology digs about five years later wearing one of my favorite t-shirts that says “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History.”  All of the genealogists should be laughing about now.  No one wants well-behaved women because you can’t find them in the records.  If my clothes look a bit large, that’s because they are, but that t-shirt was too small before the weight loss.  I could never have done the physical work on those digs, or survived the heat, before losing the weight and going from a size 22 to a 12 in the photo below.  These kinds of activities were all unforeseen benefits of the weight loss.  My sister’s untimely death was not wasted on me, but served as a warning bell, well, more of an unrelenting siren actually, when I saw those DNA results.

???????????????????????????????

I also took my 23andMe results, at least some of them, the ones related to the conditions I was dealing with, to my physician.  I really had to think long and hard about this.  So now, let’s talk about the fear part of the equation.

Fear of genetic results falls pretty much into two categories.  We’ll call these the Ostriches and the Eagles.

My brother was an Ostrich.  Yep, he was, head right in the sand.  He had cancer, his wife had cancer, twice, his daughter, in her 30s, had cancer, yet their decision when offered free DNA testing was to decline – because they didn’t want to know.  Fear of the information itself, fear of knowing, perhaps spurred because of a sense of fate – nothing we can do about it so why know about it.  He also refused to discuss it, so I really can’t tell you why, and he died, of cancer, last year, so that opportunity is past.  Personally, I think knowing about a genetic proclivity would equate to more vigilant monitoring.  And knowing the proclivity didn’t exist would set one’s mind at ease.  I would think you would be a winner either way, but my thinking and his were obviously quite different.

The other group are the Eagles.  They are vigilant and acutely aware of the fact that health based discrimination does exist.  It has been worse in the past than it is now.  This is the reason I had to think long and hard about taking any of my results to my physician.  Once in your medical record, it’s permanent.

Today, GINA, the Genetics Information Nondiscrimination Act, goes a long way to protecting people, especially in an employment situation, but it does not cover everything.

Anyone who has ever tried to obtain health care insurance individually or through a small business knows all too painfully about pre-existing condition exclusions.  Well, the good news is that ObamaCare, love it or hate it, levels that playing field for the “rest of us,” those who either were denied or had to make life and employment decisions based on whether or not they had insurance coverage through a group where discrimination related to pre-existing conditions didn’t exist.

The other good news is that you don’t have to take any of your DNA test results to your doctor.  It’s entirely up to you.  You can test anonymously, using an alias, if you’re really paranoid.  Your results through personal genetic testing are yours and for no one else to see unless you disclose them.

Lastly, let’s talk realistically about the types of insurance that still discriminate – which would be life insurance, extended care insurance, etc.  They are in the business of odds-making.  They are betting you will live and you are betting you will die sooner than later.  As you age, the odds shift, cause let’s face it, eventually, you will die – and they will have to pay out.  Now the only way they can make money is if you pay more premiums during your life than they have to pay out in the end, or they make the premiums so expensive you stop paying, letting the policy lapse, before you die, so they never have to pay.  Of course, if they think the odds are stacked too far in your favor, they simply won’t insure you.  So, if you or your family members have Huntington’s Disease, you’re not likely to be able to get life insurance outside of a group policy, with or without a genetic test.  In fact, there is a questionnaire about your family history when you apply for individual life insurance.

I bought individual life insurance about 10 years ago.  They sent a nurse to the house to draw my blood.  They wanted chain of custody, to know the blood sample was mine, which is not the case with personal DNA testing.  I had to provide ID.  If the insurance company wanted to run a DNA test, prohibitively expensive then, but not in the next few years, they certainly could do so.  Let’s just say it plain and simple – everyone has pre-existing genetic proclivities to something – no one is immune.  These results are not generally black or white either, but expressed as a range.  For example, 4.2 European women out of 100 will develop Restless Leg Syndrome in thier lifetime.  My risk is 5.2, so slightly elevated above the average.  I’m only “above average” in 5 areas, and below average in most.  And the insurance companies are still going to be in the odds-making business – they can’t deny everyone or they won’t have any business – and they will use this new tool as soon as it becomes economically viable.  There is no escaping it.

So yes, the Eagles are right to watch vigilantly – but for now – how much you share and with whom is entirely in your control, so you don’t need to be an Ostrich either.  There is a great deal of good that can come from personal genetic testing, in addition to genetic genealogy.  Knowledge is power.

So now, if you haven’t already, read this great article, The Gene Machine and Me!!!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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The Autosomal Me – Testing Company Results

This is Part 4 of a multi-part series, The Autosomal Me.

Part 1 was “The Autosomal Me – Unraveling Minority Admixture” and Part 2 was “The Autosomal Me – The Ancestors Speak.”  Part 1 discussed the technique we are going to use to unravel minority ancestry, and why it works.  Part 2 gave an example of the power of fragmented chromosomal mapping and the raw beauty of the results.  Part 3, “The Autosomal Me – Who Am I?,” discussed how to use our pedigree charts to gauge expected results and how autosomal results are grouped into population buckets.  We also named this technique, Minority Admixture Mapping, or MAP for short.

In this segment, Part 4, let’s take a look at what the testing company autosomal results look like.  The results are presented in timeline order, with the oldest results first and the latest, and presumably most accurate results, last.

23andMe Version 1

23andMe was the first company to offer this type of testing affordably.  They initially only offered 3 population groups, and one inferred that Asian was actually Native American.  Of course, that wasn’t a valid assumption for everyone, but it was the best that could be done under the circumstances.  This was my ethnicity results display at 23andMe until December 2012 went their updated version was released.

Autosomal test 1

DeCode Genetics

DeCode Genetics initially offered autosomal tests for ancestry.  Unfortunately, under the pressure of financial issues, they stepped away from the genetic genealogy marketspace and have since been sold.

Their test showed the following ethnic breakdown, picking up both my Native and African heritage:

autosomal test 2

I particularly like these results because the X chromosome is included, and seeing Native on the X chromosome, which has a unique inheritance path is a very important piece of data.

Family Tree DNA Version 1

Family Tree DNA’s first version of their Family Finder product produced results stating that I am 100% European, split between western and northern, shown below (minus the map.)

autosomal test 3

Dr. Doug McDonald

Doug McDonald, a retired physical chemistry professor, compiles contributed raw data and compares the raw data locations with both reference populations and the contributor results.  This is not a commercial endeavor but a private research project which has been ongoing for years.  His analysis of my raw data results from 23andMe and Family Tree DNA showed that they are primarily European.  His first analysis was without Middle Eastern populations and the results showed European except for a total of about 3% East Asian, Oceana and American.   However, in a second run including the Pakistan and Middle Eastern populations, the results now showed 88% European, about 1% Oceanic and American and the balance Middle Eastern and Pakistani.

A small amount of Middle Eastern heritage is not unexpected since I do have confirmed Turkish ancestors.

Dr. McDonald indicated that this was slightly more, 1-2%, than most Europeans, and that I was generally planted firmly in the middle of the “English” area in his data.  His results showed no African.

Standard deviation (statistical noise) is about 1%.  He can achieve these low deviation numbers by using such a large number of markers (536,904 to be exact)[1] for his comparison.  I am grateful to Dr. McDonald for his contribution, not only to me, but to this field.

The graph below shows that my primary ancestry falls in the English/French region.

autosomal test 4

The second graph maps these results on my chromosomes. The American, bright green, is found on chromosomes 1 and 2, and the X chromosome shows South Asian.

autosomal test 5

Doug indicates that the Native American is found at about the .5% level.  Interestingly, on my mother’s graphs and charts (below), the Native segments are nearly identical, but my first grey South Asian segment on my X is Mideast on her chart.

autosomal test 6

It’s also interesting to note that my Native American on chromosome 2 is larger than my mother’s which may well reflect Native heritage on my father’s side.  Ironically, the oral history of Native ancestry was on my father’s side, not my mothers.

Doug’s analysis has been updated several times over the years and these results are the most current.  The vendors have made upgrades too.  In 2012, both 23andMe and Family Tree DNA underwent upgrades to their ethnicity software and the Genographic Project version 2.0 test was released.

23andMe 2012 Updated Version

The new 23andMe software offers different confidence levels.

The standard estimate, or confidence level, shows that I have about .5% Native American.  This is consistent with Dr. McDonald’s findings.

autosomal test 7

A second view is available which paints the chromosomes.  A split view is also available if one of your parents has been tested at 23andMe as well.  That is not an option for me.

autosomal test 8

The conservative estimate, below, shows less Native at .2%.

autosomal test 9

The speculative level below shows the Native back to .5% but adjusts the European regions significantly.

autosomal test 10

Although 23andMe does not provide participants with the start and stop locations, through alternative means, meaning a very smart friend, Rebekah Canada, who is a Java programmer, start and stop locations can be discerned.

CeCe Moore documented Rebekah’s technique for those who will be following along with their own results through this process.

In a future segment of this series, we’ll look at alternative ways to discern Native segments.  Thanks to Rebekah’s technique, I can tell you that 23andMe shows my Native segments as follows:

Chromosome 1 – 165,658,091 to 175,711,116

Chromosome 2 – 86,316,174 to103,145,426

23andMe also provides a Neanderthal percentage.  What fun!!!

autosomal test 11

Family Tree DNA Updated 2012 Version

My mother was deceased before chip based autosomal testing was available, but I ordered the Family Finder test for her as soon as it was available.  Thankfully her DNA was stored at Family Tree DNA and was still viable.

autosomal test 12

Mother’s original results are shown above and her most recent results are shown below.  Her results shifted within Europe and her margin of error doubled.

autosomal test 13

My current results from Family Tree DNA’s updated software are shown below.

 autosomal test 14

National Geographic Genographic 2.0

I was very surprised to see my National Geographic results.  They were very unexpected, in particular the high percentages of Mediterranean and Southwest Asian, totaling 54%.

autosomal test 15

It made more sense when I read the information.  It’s true, reading is fundamental.

autosomal test 16

These results are, in essence, more anthropological in nature.

autosomal test 17

autosomal test 18

Of course, one of the fun parts of the Genographic results are the Neanderthal and Denisovan percentages.

autosomal test 19

These are somewhat different than the 23andMe results, although if you add the Neanderthal and Denisovan values together, the resultant 2.2% is very close to 23andMe’s 2.5%.

Ancestry.com

In 2012, Ancestry introduced an autosomal DNA test as well.  What it provides is very limited, with limited tools, but it does provide percentages of ethnicity in addition to matches.  Recently, Ancestry announced that the percentages may change over time.  They have been severely beaten within the genetic genealogy community for quality issues with this product, including percentages of ethnicity that are highly erroneous.  Their stated time reference is 500 years ago.

Recently this new page was added before you can see your detailed results.

autosomal test 20

Ancestry shows my heritage as only British and Scandinavian.

autosomal test 21

Ironically, Ancestry has mapped the birth locations of my ancestors in Europe on the map above, based on my family tree submitted.  Interesting that Germany doesn’t show in Ancestry’s ethnicity list but many of my family lines originated in Germany and Holland, and none in Scandinavia.

Testing Provider Summary

Where do we stand now?

A summary of the various test results is shown below compared to my pedigree analysis.

Test Results Chart

autosomal test 22

I have included Dr. McDonald’s analysis here, not because he’s a testing provider in the sense of the testing companies, but because his offering was available in this timeframe, and because he worked with Family Tree DNA to develop their Population Finder code.

You can see that the results are relatively consistent between testing companies.  There is certainly no question about majority ancestry, but the minority admixture which hovers someplace near 1%, give or take 5% in either direction, is much less consistent and not always reported.  If I were to have tested with only one company and taken the results as gospel, I could certainly have been left believing that I had no Native or African admixture.  For many people, it’s this small amount of minority admixture that they are seeking.  So in answer to the question of which testing company is “best,” the answer is, if you’re looking for trace amounts of anything, the compendium of all the testing companies (minus Ancestry) would provide the best set of results.  We will be using the match information as well in the next sections, so certainly nothing has been “wasted” testing with multiple companies, again, except Ancestry.  I am hopeful that Ancestry will in the future release our raw data (which they have promised to do) in a useable format, fix their misleading ethnicity results and add chromosome painting tools so that we can fully utilize our data.

In Part 5 of the series, we’ll take a look at third party tools and how they can continue to refine and add to our knowledge of our admixture.


1.  Genealogy-DNA Rootsweb posting by Doug McDonald on 7-26-09 and personal correspondence.

2.  71.5% western European, 28.4% Northeastern European

3.  Inferred that Asian is actually Native in an American with no history of Asian ancestry.

4.  No category, inferred.

5.  78.6% Northern European, 1.8% Southern European, 18.7% Nonspecific European

6.  54.6% Northern European, .3% Southern European, 43% Nonspecific European

7.  91.7% Northern European, 3% Southern European, 3.3% Nonspecific European

8.  75.18% West Europe (French and Orcadian), 24.82 Europe (Romanian, Russian, Tuscan and Finnish).  Note that my mother’s results are almost identical except the Finnish is missing from hers.

9.  43% North Europe and 36% Mediterranean

10.  80% British, 12% Scandinavian

______________________________________________________________

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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

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Genealogy Research

2012 Top 10 Genetic Genealogy Happenings

2012 has been a very busy year for genetic genealogists.  There have been lots of discoveries and announcements that affect everyone, now and in the future.  The watchwords for 2012 would be “churn” and “explosive growth.”  Let’s take a look at the 10 most important events, why they are important and what they mean for the future of genetic genealogy.

These items are in what I think are relatively good order, ranked by their importance, although I had a very difficult time deciding between number 1 and 2.

1. The New Root – Haplogroup A00

At the Family Tree DNA conference in November, Michael Hammer, Bonnie Schrack and Thomas Krahn announced that they had made a monumental discovery in the age of modern man known as Y-line Adam.  The discovery of Haplogroup A00 pushes the “birth” of mankind back from about 140,000 years ago to an amazing 338,000 years ago.  Utterly amazing.  The DNA came from an American family from South Carolina.  This discovery highlights the importance of citizen science.  Bonnie is a haplogroup administrator who recognized the potential importance of one of her participants’ DNA.  Thomas Krahn of course is with Family Tree DNA and ran the WTY test, and Michael Hammer is at the University of Arizona.  So you have the perfect blend here of participant, citizen scientist, commercial lab and academia.  What was never thought possible a decade or so ago is not only working, it’s working well and changing the face of both science and humanity.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/11/16/the-new-root-haplogroup-a00/

http://www.haplogroup-a.com./

2. Geno 2.0

Geno 2.0 is the Nickname for the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project version 2.0.  That mouthful is why it has a nickname.

This amazing project has leveraged the results of the past 7 years of research from the original Genographic project into a new groundbreaking product.  Geno 2.0, utilizing the GenoChip, a sequencing chip created specifically for Nat Geo, offers the most complete Y tree in the world today, expanding the SNP tree from just over 800 SNPs to over 12,000.  They are in essence redrawing the Y chromosome tree as I write this.  In addition, the person who purchases Geno 2.0 will receive a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup assignment.  Over 3300 new mitochondrial mutations were discovered. A brand new anthropological “percentages of ethnicity” report is featured based on over 75,000 Ancestry Informative Markers, many only recently discovered by the Genographic project.  Additionally, participants will receive their percentage of both Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry based on 30,000 SNPs identified that signal interbreeding between the hominids.  A new website will also facilitate social networking and uploading information to Family Tree DNA.

The wonderful news is that there is a massive amount of new information here that will change the landscape of genetic genealogy.  The difficulty is that we are struggling a bit under the load of that massive amount of information that is just beginning to descend upon us.  It’s a great problem to have!

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/25/national-geographic-geno-2-0-announcement-the-human-story/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/26/geno-2-0-qa-with-bennett-greenspan/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/30/geno-2-0-answers-from-spencer-wells/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/31/geno-2-0-wty-mtdna-full-sequence-participants-and-more/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/14/what-to-order-geno-2-0-vs-family-tree-dna-products/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/16/geno-2-0-the-kit-arrives/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/11/geno-2-0-results-first-peek/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/12/geno-2-0-results-kicking-the-tires/

3. Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence (RSRS)

In July, Family Tree DNA implemented the RSRS that in effect reconstructs the genetic profile of Mitochondrial Eve and bases the comparison of our DNA today against the RSRS sequence as opposed to the Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS) created in 1981 that is or was the current standard.  The RSRS is a result of the watershed paper published in April 2012 by Dr. Doron Behar and 8 other authors titled “A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root.”  A complementary research website, www.mtdnacommunity.org, accompanies the paper.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/14/what-happened-to-my-mitochondrial-dna/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/15/the-crs-and-the-rsrs/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/16/the-mtdna-community/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/02/little-a-big-a-mitochondrial-dna/

4. Full Genome and Exome Sequence Offered Commercially by Gene by Gene

It was announced at the November DNA conference that Gene by Gene, the parent company of Family Tree DNA, through their division titled DNA DTC is offering full genomic sequencing for the amazing price of $5495 for the full genome and $695 for the exome.  This is a first in the consumer marketspace.  Today, this doesn’t have a lot of application for genetic genealogy, but as the price continues to drop, and utilities are built to process the full genomic data, certainly a market and applications will emerge.  This is an important step forward in the industry with a product that still cost 3 million dollars in 2007.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/11/30/gene-by-gene-announces-landmark-dna-dtc-full-genome-sequence/

5. Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA

It’s official – they did it.  Yep, they interbred and well, they are not them anymore, they are us.  Given that everyone in Asia and Europe carries a part of them, but not people from Africa, it would appear that two populations admixed rather thoroughly in Eurasia and/or the populations were small.  The amount of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA will continue at approximately the proportions seen today in Europe (2% Neanderthal) and Asia unless a significant amount of admixture from a population (Africa) that does not carry this admixture is introduced.  So if you’re European, you carry both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA.  They are your ancestors.  The good news is that you can find how much of each through  the Geno 2.0 test.  23andMe results give you the percentage of Neanderthal, but not Denisovan.

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/31/denisovan-dna-tells-a-story/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/12/geno-2-0-results-kicking-the-tires/

6. Ancestral Genome Reconstruction Begins,  Led by Falling Autosomal Prices and the Ability to Fish in Multiple Ponds

2012 has been the year of autosomal testing price reductions and a great deal of churn in this marketspace.  Companies are playing leap-frog with one another.  However, sometimes things are not all that they seem.

Initially, 23andMe opted for an initial payment plus monthly subscription model, which they abandoned for a one time payment price of $299 in early 2012.  Family Tree DNA was slightly less, at $289.

Ancestry led the price war by giving away kits, then selling them for $99, then $129 plus a subscription as an entrance into this market.  However, looking at the Ancestry consent form hints at possible reasons why they were selling below the cost of the tests.  You are in essence giving them permission to sell your DNA and associated information.  In addition, to gain full access to your results and matches, you must maintain some level of subscription to Ancestry.com, increasing the total effective price.

Next came Family Tree DNA’s sale where they dropped their autosomal price to $199, but they were shortly upstaged by 23andMe whose price has now dropped to $99 permanently, apparently, a result of a 50 million dollar investment in order to reach 1 million customers.  They currently have about 180,000.  23andMe has always been in the medical/health business, so their clients have always understood what they were consenting to and for.

Not to be outdone, Family Tree DNA introduced the ability earlier in 2012 to upload your data files from 23andMe to FamilyTree DNA for $89, far less than a second test, which allows you to fish in a second pond where genealogists live for matches.  The challenge at 23andMe is that most of their clients test for the health traits and either don’t answer inquiries or match requests, or know little about their genealogy if they do.  At Family Tree DNA, matches don’t have to answer and allow a match, testers are automatically matched with all participants who take the Family Finder test (or upload their 23andMe results) and testers are provided with their matches’ e-mail address.

Of course, Geno 2.0 was also introduced in the midst of this, in July, for $199 with the additional lollipop of new SNPS, lots of them, that others simply don’t have access to yet.

The good news is that consumers have benefitted from this leapfrogging, I think.  Let’s hope that the subsidized tests at Ancestry and 23andMe don’t serve long term to water down the demand to the point where unsubsidized companies (who don’t selling participants genetic results to others) have problems remaining viable.

Personally, I’ve tested at all of these companies.  I’ll be evaluating the results shortly in detail on my blog at www.dna-explained.com.

The tools provided by most testing companies, plus GedMatch, and multiple ponds to fish in are allowing the serious genetic genealogist to “reconstruct” their genome, attributing segments to specific ancestors.  Conversely, we will also be able to “reconstruct” specific ancestral family lines as well by identifying autosomal segments in multiple descendants.  This new vision of autosomal genetic genealogy will allow much more accurate ancestral line matching, and ancestor identification in the not-so-distant future.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/01/family-tree-dna-now-accepting-23andme.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/05/23andme-eliminates-subscription-model.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/10/clarification-of-what-is-available-to.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/23andme-receives-50-million-and-drops.html

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/26/23andme-and-labcorp-sued-for-patent-infringement/

7. Ethnicity Tests Mature – Minus 1

The good news is that the various ethnicity tests (known as BGA or biogeographical ancestry tests) that provide participants with their percentages of various world populations are improving.  The bad news is that there is currently one bad apple in the card with very misleading percentages – and that is Ancestry.com.

23andMe introduced a new version of their ethnicity product in December, expanding from only 3 geographic categories to several.  The Geno 2.0 test results are just beginning to be returned which include ethnicity predictions and references to several base populations.

Family Tree DNA finally has some competition in this arena where for years they have been the only serious player, although opinions differ widely about which of these three organizations results are the most accurate.  All four are Illumina chip based, using hundreds of thousands of locations, as compared with the previous CODIS type tests which used between 15 and 300 markers and are now outdated.  All companies use different reference populations which, of course, provide somewhat different results to participants.  All companies, except Ancestry, have documented and shared their reference population information.

Outside of these companies, Doug McDonald offers a private analysis and Gedmatch offers a series of BGA comparisons written by third parties.

While this industry continues to grow and mature, I’m thinking about just averaging the autosomal ethnic results and calling it good:)

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/21/ethnicity-finders/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/24/ancestrys-mythical-admixture-percentages/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/07/new-worldview-at-23andme/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/09/09/doug-mcdonald-on-biogeograpical-analysis/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/12/11/geno-2-0-results-first-peek/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012_12_01_archive.html

8. Finding Your Roots PBS Series with Henry Louis Gates

PBS sponsored a wonderful series in the spring of 2012 hosted by Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, the chair of African American Studies at Harvard.  This series followed a lesser known 2010 series.  The 2012 inspirational series reached tens of thousands of people and increased awareness of genetic genealogy as well as sparked an interest in genealogy itself, especially for mixed race and African American people.  I was disappointed that the series did not pursue the Native American results unexpectedly obtained for one participant.  It seemed like a missed opportunity.  Series like this bring DNA testing for genealogy into the mainstream, making it less “strange” and frightening and more desirable for the average person.  These stories were both inspirational and heartwarming.  I hope we can look forward to similar programs in the future.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finding_Your_Roots

CeCe Moore covered this series in March and April on her blog.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/03/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_09.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_16.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_23.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/04/finding-your-roots-with-henry-louis_30.html

9. Ancestry, GeneTree and Sorenson

GeneTree, a for profit company and Sorenson, a non-profit company were both purchased by Ancestry.com.  This was about the same time as Ancestry introduced their autosomal AncestryDNA product.  Speculation was that the autosomal results at Sorenson might be the foundation for the new autosomal test comparisons, although there has been no subsequent evidence of this.

Ancestry initially gave away several thousand kits in order to build their data base, then sold thousands more for $99 before raising the price to what appears to be a normalized price of $129 plus an annual ancestry subscription.

While GeneTree was never a major player in the DNA testing marketspace, Sorenson Molecular Genealogical Foundation played an important role for many years as a nonprofit research institute.  There was significant distress in the genetic genealogy community related to the DNA contributed to Sorenson for research being absorbed by Ancestry as a “for profit” company.  Ancestry is maintaining the www.smgf.org website, but no additional results will be added.  Sorenson has been entirely shuttered.  Many of the Sorenson/GeneTree employees appear to have moved over to Ancestry.

The initial AncestryDNA autosomal product offering is poor, lacks tools and the ethnicity portion has significant issues. It’s strength is that many people who test are already Ancestry subscribers and have attached their trees.  So you can’t see how you connect genetically to your matches (lack of tools), but you can see the trees, if they are attached and not marked as private, of those with whom you match.  Ancestry provides “hints” relative to matching individuals or surnames.

Eventually, if Ancestry improves its products, provides tools and releases the raw data to consumers, this may be a good thing.  It’s an important event in 2012 because of the massive size of Ancestry, but the product is mediocre at best.  Ancestry seems unwilling to acknowledge issues unless their feet are held to the fire publicly as illustrated with a “lab error” erroneous match for an adoptee caught by the consuming public and ignored by Ancestry until CeCe Moore exposed them in her blog.  Whether Ancestry ultimately helps or hurts the genetic genealogy industry is a story yet to be told.  There is very little positive press in the genetic genealogy community surrounding the Ancestry product, but with their captive audience, they are clearly going to be a player.

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/05/ancestrycom-buys-genetree-and-launches.html

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/12/did-you-test-at-genetree/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/30/is-history-repeating-itself-at-ancestry/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/07/18/the-trouble-with-ancestry-com-matches/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/14/y-dna-family-tree-dna-vs-ancestry/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/08/16/ancestrys-consent-form-for-ancestrydna-autosomal-test/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/09/10/ancestry-autosomal-results-are-back/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/15/ancestrys-dna-survey/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/23/ancestry-to-release-array-data-in-2013/

http://dna-explained.com/2012/10/24/ancestrys-mythical-admixture-percentages/

http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2012/06/19/problems-with-ancestrydnas-genetic-ethnicity-prediction/

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/08/ancestrydna-confusing-relationship.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/08/follow-up-on-ancestrydna-and-adoptees.html

http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/09/23andme-says-no-match-for-adoptees.html

10. GedMatch

GedMatch, www.gedmatch.com, created by John Olson and Curtis Rogers, isn’t new in 2012, but it’s maturing into a tool that is becoming the defacto workhorse of the serious autosomal community.  People who test at either 23andMe or Family Tree DNA download their raw results and other match information and then use a variety of tools at GedMatch to look at results in different ways and using different thresholds. GedMatch is currently working to accept the newly arriving Geno 2.0 data files.  Ancestry does not at this time allow their customers access to their raw data files, so there is nothing to upload. The bad news is that not everyone downloads/uploads their information.  Only the most savvy users, and the download/upload is not always a smooth process, often necessitating several attempts, a magic wand and some fairy dust for luck.

GedMatch is a volunteer effort funded by donations on the GedMatch site.  The magnitude of this project came to light when they needed new servers this year because the amount of traffic disabled their internet service provider.  It may be a volunteer effort, but it has mainstream requirements.  Therefore, while occasionally frustrating, it’s easy to understand why it’s light on documentation and one has to poke around a bit to figure things out.  I would actually prefer that they make it a subscription site, clean up the bugs, add the documentation and take it to the next level.  It would also be very nice if they could arrange something with the major players in terms of a seamless data transfer for clients.  All told, it’s an amazing contribution as a volunteer site.  Hats off to Curtis and John for their ongoing contribution to genetic genealogists!!!

www.gedmatch.com

http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2012/08/12/gedmatch-a-dna-geeks-dream-site/

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Britains DNA – Caveat Emptor

Recently, a client contacted me who had tested with both companies, Britains DNA and GeneBase, and couldn’t figure out what to make of his results or if the two even connected with each other.

When I saw what he sent me, I immediately understood why, and I felt very badly for him.

I often wonder how people make decisions regarding DNA testing and the companies they choose.  In some cases, I know.  For example, Ancestry has a lot of subscribers, so subscribers make up the majority of their customers.  But that’s not always the case.

I hadn’t actually been able to see results from Britains DNA before, so this was a great opportunity, but I am sorely disappointed.

While I was in this evaluation process, the following article titled  “Exaggerations and Errors in the Promotion of Genetic Ancestry Testing” was published which I found extremely concerning.

http://www.genomesunzipped.org/2012/12/exaggerations-and-errors-in-the-promotion-of-genetic-ancestry-testing.php

Let’s take a look at what you actually receive from Britains DNA.

For 170 pounds, which equates to about $266 US, in a 3 page boilerplate report, you learn the identity of 4 of your haplogroup SNPs.  They tell you that “Your Fatherline is Berber” and “Your YDNA markers are M35+M81+,” and that’s it for customization, other than your name and one line on page three that says “These are the markers we tested which define your group:  M96+  P29+  M35+ and M81+.”  The rest of the three pages is entirely a boilerplate story.  And what a “story” it is.

The first thing you see is a map, but not until the last paragraph of page 3 does it tell you that the map shows where “your group” is found today, but what is meant by “your group” is unclear.  I’m presuming here that the map is either showing M35 or M81.  For $266 dollars, the customer should not have to presume.

britains dna map

Part of the ensuing “story” is questionable.  For example, describing the after-effects of the eruption of Mount Toba in 70,000 BC, “Only in east-central Africa, in the shelter of the great rift valleys, did tiny remnant bands of people survive where perhaps as few at 5000 outlived the sunless summers.”

What is stated here as fact is assuredly one of the theories, but it’s far from an established scientific fact and is highly controversial.  There are no words here like “may have been” or “are believed by some” – just the recantation of a story using the tone one might use to tell a fanciful bedtime story to a believing child. Except these people are adults and paid a lot of money to receive a scientific explanation of their DNA results, not something that reads like a modern day fairy tale.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory

Another example is their introduction of marker M81.  “Men with your marker, with M81, made a dramatic entry into recorded history.  Led by one of the greatest generals the world has seen, Berber cavalry fought in the Carthaginian army as it struggled with Rome in the 3rd century BC for control of the Mediterranean.”

Really?  That was their introduction?

Arredi et al in 2004 in the paper, “A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for Y-Chromosomal DNA Variation in North Africa” linked M81 with the spread of Neolithic food producing technologies.  So if M81 existed in the Neolithic, which began about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, it clearly wasn’t introduced in the 3rd century BC with the unnamed Berber general, or the Carthaginians.  Maybe the story of the Carthaginians was just a more interesting tale.  The problem is that it’s misleading and inaccurate.

Reading this “story” from the perspective of one experienced with genetic genealogy, I feel like this was written for an audience they felt was unable to comprehend the “complicated truth.”  Except, the truth isn’t all that complicated.  People can understand it just fine, thank you, and I find that approach very insulting.

Near the end of the story, in the “marker” section, they say that  “SNP is another word for marker” and that these markers are unique events in human history showing you where your ancestors were in the past and where your “group” is found today.  There is no further explanation.

Personally, I found this entire 3 pages arrogantly condescending.  Judging from that article, I’m not alone.  Moreover, this high priced, low value, fanciful product worries me because I’m concerned that genetic genealogy will all be painted and tarred with the same brush once the consuming public catches on and the word gets out.  You know, that bad apple thing.  I hope that Britains DNA will either improve their product or exit the marketplace before they damage an already nervous European population relative to DNA testing.  And what’s worse, this is Brits preying on other Brits when they will likely attempt to invoke a trust relationship with potential buyers.  “Buy from us, we’re Brits and we’re local.”  To put this in perspective, the cost of 4 SNP markers at Family Tree DNA, the only company who tests SNP markers boutique style, is $29 each, for a total of $116.

My client, not knowing quite what to make of all this, then tested at Genebase.  For another $119, he obtained STR markers for 27 locations.  He had no idea how to tie this together with the results from Britain’s DNA, or what to do with these markers.  He wanted to know if the two tests supported each other, or if they were different, and what they told him.  That’s when he found me.

I did best I could for him with what I had to work with by using Whit Athey’s haplogroup predictor, YSearch and the haplogroup project for E-M35.  Thank you, Whit and Family Tree DNA for these tools.

In the end, what I finally told him, among other things, is that he needs to spend another $119 so that he can test at Family Tree DNA.  I hated to do this, because with my fee added, this man has now paid over $400 US.  Testing at Family Tree DNA would get him 37 markers, a personal page, a haplogroup and provide him the ability to join an Italian project, a surname project and a haplogroup project.  He needs to be able to work with haplogroup project administrators to determine if he needs deep clade (or similar) SNP testing. He needs to be able to look at the haplogroup origins page, the ancestral origins page, and the matches map to see where his own people were both further back in time and more recently.  He needs matches, and to be able to contact his matches to see if he can make connections and discern trends.  He needs a community.

Never, until today, until I saw this man’s piecemeal results, fanciful boilerplate story and his desire to patch it all together, did I fully appreciate all that Family Tree DNA provides, in one place, integrated, through their products and webpages, and charitably, through the foundation they provide for their project administrators, Ysearch, Mitosearch and the support of other clients and volunteers who guide people through the discovery process.

A very, very big thank you to Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld, founders of Family Tree DNA, and to all of those unnamed volunteers and project administrators who work together and separately to make all of this possible.

For my client, though, and others like him, I’m not quite sure what to say or how to prevent this in the future.  I guess the words “buyer beware” also have to be applied to purchasing genetic genealogy products.  As with any other items where consumers are drawn to purchase something, if there is money and demand, there will be scam artists and less than ethical people looking to take advantage of a naïve consuming public.  For me, it’s personally painful when those people fall into the category of “scientists” because like doctors, that professional label alone engenders trust.  This product certainly trembles on the line of betrayal of that trust.  Some would say it crosses that line.  Perhaps it is a fine line.  The customer did discover his “fatherline” and receive a story, even if the story was more fluffy than scientific and the price exorbitant for what he received.

Caveat emptor!

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