James Sorenson, Founder of Sorenson Genomics

There’s a great article in last week’s USA Today about James Sorenson, the billionaire founder of Sorenson Genomics.  It’s a great read, full of information about this interesting visionary.

The only thing I didn’t like was the picture of Mr. Sorenson touching the human femur being tested in the forensic DNA lab – the scientist in me grimaced at the potential contamination!

(Thanks to Hsien for the link!)

Comment on ‘A Lonely Surname’

Earlier this week I posted about my rare surname and the genetic bottleneck my particular branch of the family tree is experiencing. Later that day a visitor stopped by and left their own story (as a comment) relating to family trees and genetic genealogy, and it was so interesting that I thought I’d share it:

“Blaine said:
“You would think that after 193 years there should be hundreds of us, but that’s not how genealogy or genetics works.”

I was shocked when I realized that my brothers are at the end state of our yDNA.
Lorenzo P. (our gr-grandfather)from Italy had three sons. Two “daughtered out.” Our grandfather Agostino had two sons. One son had a son, the other son had two sons. None of those sons have had children. One had died, and the others are no longer married, and not likely to do so again. That is the end of Lorenzo’s line in the US. Perhaps he had brothers in Italy that we have yet to find, and the yDNA line continues. ... Click to read more!

DNA IS a Big Deal


Last Thursday, Michael Neill, a noted genealogist and author of rootdig.com, posted an article entitled “Is DNA That Big of a Deal?”

Mr. Neill, who states that he is “tired of all they hype” writes:

“While I admit there are times where DNA analysis can be helpful, in the vast majority of cases DNA does not provide the type of relationship precision we need. Knowing that two people are related “somehow” “somewhere” “an unknown number of generations back” is typically not the kind of information genealogists need.”

He also believes that instead of spending money and effort on genetic genealogy, researchers should be digitizing and preserving records.

I agree with much of what Mr. Neill says – DNA doesn’t always work, DNA isn’t for all genealogists, and genealogists MUST help preserve endangered records.But, unfortunately, paper records don’t hold all the answers.I’ve always believed that genetic genealogy works best when it is combined with traditional genealogical research.Inside each one of my three trillion cells are a few strands of DNA that serve as records of their own – why shouldn’t genealogists get excited when exploring the most personal record they’ll ever find? ... Click to read more!

“Genetic Genealogy and the Ancestries of African Americans” at the U of C

On June 28, the University of Chicago’s Newberry Library presented a panel discussion entitled “Genetic Genealogy and the Ancestries of African Americans” with Rick Kittles.In addition to being an associate professor of medicine at the University, Mr. Kittles is also the science director of AfricanAncestry.com.

The panel also included Christopher Rabb, a genealogist.The two discussed the difficulties facing African Americans who are interested in discovering their roots.After exhausting paper records, Mr. Rabb used DNA testing to learn more about his paternal and maternal lineages.

Despite the successes of genetic genealogy, “[b]oth Rabb and Kittles recognized that genetic testing for ancestry complicates the history and social reality of race in the United States,” noting that 30% of African Americans descend from Europeans. ... Click to read more!

Genetic Genealogy in the Czech Republic – A Hot Topic!

Two weeks ago, EyeonDNA posted about genetic genealogy testing in the Czech Republic by two companies, Genomac and Forensic DNA Service. A recent article in the Prague Post details the animosity over ethical concerns which exists between these two competitors.

A few days later, Ludvik Urban responded to the article via Rootsweb, and EyeonDNA shared Mr. Urban’s response with her readers. Today, you can read Genomac’s response (from one of the founders, Dr. Marek Minarik) to Mr. Urban’s concerns about the company.

Whew! Luckily, both sides were able to share their side of the story – it makes for some interesting reading!

A Lonely Surname

I have a very lonely surname according to estimates, there are only about 1000 to 2000 Bettingers in the United States. In the 1930 census, the most recent census which is indexed and available to genealogists, there were just 1,300 Bettingers. Therefore, not surprisingly, I was the first Bettinger to experiment with genetic genealogy and had the opportunity to start a Bettinger surname project, which I did. Sadly, however, my project still has just one member. I originally tried to email some potential relatives, but only a few seemed interested, and none decided to take the plunge.

My particular Y-DNA has an interesting story (I think that everyone’s Y-DNA has an interesting story, it’s just that I’ve decided to share mine!). My most distant paternal ancestor came to America in the late 1700’s and had six sons (and 1 daughter who didn’t live long), only 5 of whom passed on their Y-DNA. I am descended from the third son, and I call our line “Branch #3.” For the next three generations of Branch #3, each of my ancestors had two boys, one who passed on Y-DNA to the present, and one that has not. In my grandfather’s generation, he was the only male. He returned to the tradition of having two boys, but only one of those boys (my father) has passed on his Y-DNA. My father, however, decided to buck the trend and have three boys, while I’ve passed on my Y-DNA to my son. ... Click to read more!

Interviewed at EyeonDNA

        I was recently interviewed by Hsien at EyeonDNA.  She asked some great questions about the field of genetic genealogy, and I hope you’ll check it out.

          I consider my new friendship with Hsien and other fellow bloggers to be one of the great successes of this blog, and I thank her for the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for genetic genealogy with her readers!

The Genographic Project Database

With Friday’s release of a paper in PLoS Genetics, the Genographic Project also released a spreadsheet with the results of over 16,000 mtDNA tests, including HVS-I and SNP results (available here). In addition to sequencing the HVS-I region of mtDNA samples the Project is now testing 22 SNPs. These SNPs were chosen based upon a number of factors, which are discussed in the paper.

“Twenty one SNPs and the 9-bp deletion make up the total of 22 biallelic sites. For simplicity, we will refer to all biallelic sites as SNPs. The number of SNPs tested was gradually increased from ten at inception of the project to the 22 currently used. The ten initial SNPs were 3594, 4580, 5178, 7028, 10400, 10873, 11467, 11719, 12705, and 14766 (numbers refer to the nucleotide position in the mitochondrial genome). The panel was augmented to a total of 20 coding-region SNPs by including the following additional ten SNPs: 4248, 6371, 8994, 10034, 10238, 10550, 12612, 13263, 13368, and 13928. The panel was further augmented by the addition of SNP 2758, to a total of 21 coding-region SNPs and finally by including the 9-bp deletion at position 8280 to a total of 22 coding-region SNPs (Figure 4). Two further changes were made: positions 8994 and 13928 used in some early work were respectively replaced with their phylogenetic equivalents 1243 and 3970. Therefore, the current panel includes the following SNPs, with their respective gene locations shown in brackets [33]: 2758 (16S), 3594 (ND1), 4248 (M), 4580 (ND2), 5178 (ND2), 6371 (COI), 7028 (COI), 8280 (9-bp deletion) (NC7), 8994 (ATPase6), 10034 (G), 10238 (ND3), 10400 (R), 10550 (NDRL), 10873 (ND4), 11467 (ND4), 11719 (ND4), 12612 (ND5), 12705 (ND5), 13263 (ND5), 13368 (ND5), 13928 (ND5), and 14766 (Cytb).” ... Click to read more!