Featured Articles From The Genetic Genealogist

I’ve added a new page to the blog called “Featured Articles“. It’s available 24/7 at the top of every page, and contains a categorized list of about 50 of my favorite articles from the last year. These posts are listed under categories including “Popular Articles”, “Personal Genomics”, “Learning About Genetic Genealogy”, “Ethical Issues”, and “Famous DNA”. This easy-to-read format is much easier to navigate than the clumsy “Categories” column in the right sidebar, which returns too many results in no apparent organization. If you’re relatively new to The Genetic Genealogist, you might find some interesting articles that you missed the first time around. Happy reading!

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A Big Day For Genetic Genealogists – A New Y-DNA Tree And The New SNP Test

An Updated Y-DNA Tree at ISOGG

The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) announced today that their Tree Team has completed the 2008 version of the Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree. This revision was a major undertaking, because, as ISOGG states in the version history, “[t]he Karafet et al paper (2008) required a significant revision to the tree and affected all haplogroups.” The reference for this paper is (Karafet T M, Mendez F L, Meilerman M B, Underhill P A, Zegura S L, Hammer M F, (2008).
New Binary Polymorphisms Reshape and Increase Resolution of the Human Y-Chromosomal Haplogroup Tree. Abstract. Genome Research, published online April 2, 2008. Supplementary Material.). From ISOGG’s official release:

MAY 04, 2008 – The 2008 version of the ISOGG Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree is now available online: http://www.isogg.org/tree/. New to the tree is a haplogroup conversion table which is downloadable in MS Word. If you do not have MS Word/MS Office, you can download openoffice.org for a compatible word processing program. Appreciation goes to Richard Kenyon and Charles Moore for their work on compiling this table.

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Accuracy of Large-Scale Genome Scanning Services

Although the genome scanning services offered by companies such as 23andMe, deCODEme, and SeqWright have been front and center in the press the last few weeks, I’m sure that the following information will not be included in any of the reports.


Two different sources have concluded that the scanning service offered by 23andMe and deCODEme, who use different types of Illumina SNP Chips, are highly reproducible. In January 2008, Ann Turner compared the results of testing at deCODEme and 23andMe, and concluded that of the 560,163 SNPs that overlapped and had a “call” (meaning there was a measurable result), they agreed on 560,128 and disagreed on 35. Ann wrote in January:

In all of [the disagreed calls], one company would make a homozygous call while the other company made a heterozygous call – there were no cases where they made a completely discordant call. All in all, I’d say that is pretty impressive.

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Press Release From The Newly-Created DNA Fund

Last week I received a press release announcing the creation of a non-profit organization to raise and disseminate funds to increase original research in genetic genealogy testing (some of which will undoubtedly be reported in the open-source Journal of Genetic Genealogy). The DNA Fund also has a blog, available here. Following is the press release:

SALIDA, CA – The DNA Fund, (www.dnafund.org), a new non-profit organization has been established to fund DNA testing scholarships and grants for ancestral DNA studies. Currently in Phase 1 of the Fund’s launch, testing monies will be raised through fundraising affiliates. Scheduled for Phase 2, the Fund will accept donations and in Phase 3, coordinate grants for DNA projects and studies.

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Lessons Learned From a Genetic Genealogy Quiz

On April 9th, 2008, I posted a quiz about genetic genealogy here on the blog. (If you haven’t taken the quiz yet, it is available here; it only requires a few minutes and might make the following analysis more clear and personally relevant). I created and posted this quiz because I thought it was a fun way to interact with my readers, and because I thought it was educational material to share with others.

As readers began to take the quiz, I realized that there was valuable information contained with the results. The following is an analysis of those results with a few preliminary conclusions. As I proceed, don’t feel bad about missing any of these questions, since this isn’t meant to be a critique of any single individual (especially since individual responses were not recorded). I merely hope to share the results as a whole in an effort to help inform and educate. The quiz was, and still is, meant to be fun.

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Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi – "Long-Ago Person Found"

image Around the year 1700, a relatively healthy young hunter was walking along a glacier in land that would one day be British Columbia in Canada. He wore a robe of 95 animal skins, perhaps gopher or squirrel, stitched together with sinew, and carried a walking stick, iron-blade knife, and spear thrower. For some reason, the young man, aged 17 to 22, died on the glacier and was quickly incorporated into the ice. There he remained, frozen, for the next 300 years.

In August 1999, three hikers noticed a walking stick, fur, and bone lying on a melting glacier (60′ N 138′ W). The young hunter, renamed Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi in the Southern Tutchone language of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, was removed by scientists for analysis (see the NY Times article, and the Journal of Canadian Archaeology article). From an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

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DNAPrint Genomics and a New Roots Television Video

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak recently wrote “I’m a Euro-Mutt!” about the results of her AncestrybyDNA EuropeanDNA 2.0 test (from DNAPrint Genomics). Megan found that the results of her test were both expected and surprising! From DNAPrint Genomics’ website:

DNAPrint® Genomics’ powerful new EuropeanDNA 2.0 product, further elucidates European sub-ancestry using 1,349 European Ancestry Informative Markers (SNP AIMs). This test reports a customer’s proportional basic continental European ancestry: Southeastern Europe (SEE – Armenian, Jewish, Italian and Greek), Iberian (IB -Spanish, Portuguese), Basque (BAS – Spanish/French Pyrenees border), Continental European (CE – German, Irish, English, Netherlands, French, Swiss and some Italian) and North Eastern European (NEE – Polish, Baltic, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Russian) ancestry.

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Human mtDNA Diversity Before Migration Out of Africa

image Yesterday, a very interesting paper was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics by the Genographic Project Consortium entitled “The Dawn of Human Matrilineal Diversity.” The results of the study, which examined the 624 mtDNA genomes from sub-saharan Haplogroup L lineages, suggests that humanity once split into two small groups with one group in eastern Africa and the other in southern Africa, and that humanity bottlenecked into a relatively small number of individuals (as few as 2,000 based on results from a previous study). Note, as always, that these are hypotheses based upon the results of this and other studies, and will require further research to support or refute.

Two mtDNA Branches

The human mtDNA tree has two main branches, the L0 branch which includes individuals concentrated in southern and eastern Africa, and the L1’2’3’4’5’6′ branch (aka the L1’5 branch), which includes the entire remainder of humanity including non-Africans (see the figure to the left). Based upon the analysis of the 624 genomes, the researchers hypothesized that the L0 and L1’5 branches diverged into two small populations around 140,000 to 210,000 years ago, with one group settling in eastern Africa (the L1’5 branch) and the other settling in southern Africa (the L0 branch). Interestingly, the results also suggest that there was little to no intermingling of these branches for the next 50,000 to 100,000 years!

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GINA: An Update

1:25PM EST: Senator Olympia Snowe is currently on the floor of the Senate speaking about GINA (see it live on C-SPAN 2). And yes, I realize that live-blogging C-SPAN coverage is dangerously boring, but I can’t help myself!

3:00PM EST: I just received a press release from the Genetics & Public Policy Center that GINA passed the Senate 95-0:

The Senate today passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), approving by unanimous consent of 95-0 an amended version of H.R. 493, which passed the House April 25, 2007 by a vote of 420-3. The House is expected to take up the measure again quickly before sending it to President Bush to sign the measure into law.

“After a very long wait, Americans can now be confident that their genetic information cannot be used by health insurers or employers in harmful or hurtful ways,” says Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center, established at Johns Hopkins University by The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Our challenge now is to make sure that doctors and patients are aware of these new protections so that fear of discrimination never again stands in the way of a decision to take a genetic test that could save a life.”

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Finally, GINA Gets Her Day

iStock_000005432570XSmall On April 27, 2007, I wrote “GINA: A Primer“, which was an introduction to the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act. Today, nearly a year later, the bill will most likely be voted on and passed by the Senate, the last step before being handed over to President Bush to sign into law (which he has indicated that he will do). As I wrote last April:

“GINA aims to protect individuals in a variety of different areas. The legislation would prohibit access to genetic information by insurance companies and would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against an applicant based on genetic information, the refusal to submit genetic information, or for have been genetically tested in the past. Additionally, the Act would prohibit employers from using or collecting genetic information to make employment decisions. The Act also establishes a Genetic Nondiscrimination Study Commission that is charged with reviewing new developments in the field of genetics and advising Congress.”

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