Me? A GeneaAngel?

The footnote Maven created an ‘angelic’ collage of genealogy bloggers at “A Choice of GeneaAngels.” I was graciously included in the collage. Can you find me without looking at the list? Sure would be fun to hear us all sing together, wouldn’t it?

On a related note, the footnote Maven also started a Blog Caroling meme where we post the lyrics from our favorite Christmas carol. Since my favorite song was already taken, I thought I’d go with my second favorite. In high school my French teacher would have us sing Christmas carols in French and one of my favorites was the following:

Bring A Torch, Jeannette, Isabella:

English Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella! Bring a torch, to Bethlehem come! Christ is born. Tell the folk of the village Mary has laid him in a manger. Ah!* Ah! beautiful is the Mother! Ah! Ah! beautiful is her child! It is wrong when the Baby is sleeping, It is wrong to speak so loud. Silence, now as you gather around, Lest your noise should waken Jesus. Hush! Hush! see how the Baby slumbers; Hush! Hush! see how the Baby sleeps! Softly now unto the stable, Softly for a moment come! Look and see how charming is Jesus, Look at him there, His cheeks are rosy! Hush! Hush! see how the Child is sleeping; Hush! Hush! see how he smiles in dreams! French Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle — Un flambeau! Courons au berceau! C’est Jésus, bons gens du hameau. Le Christ est né; Marie appelle! Ah! Ah! Ah! Que la Mère est belle, Ah! Ah! Ah! Que l’Enfant est beau! C’est un tort, quand l’Enfant sommeille, C’est un tort de crier si fort. Taisez-vous, l’un et l’autre, d’abord! Au moindre bruit, Jésus s’éveille. Chut! chut! chut! Il dort à merveille, Chut! chut! chut! Voyez comme il dort! Doucement, dans l’étable close, Doucement, venez un moment! Approchez! Que Jésus est charmant! Comme il est blanc! Comme il est rose!

According to Wikipedia, the song was first published in 1553 in France and is unique among Christmas carols in that it is in 3/8 time (the fast pace is one reason I enjoy the song so much).

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The Genetic Genealogy Timeline

tiemline.jpgGenealogists spend many of their days (and much of their money!) tracking the history of their ancestors. They hunt through ancient records to elucidate even the smallest clue as to some facet of their ancestors’ lives. Since the majority of genetic genealogists started their journey as traditional genealogists, it is only natural that they enjoy record-keeping and tracking as well.

The DNA Genealogy Timeline is a free public resource maintained by Georgia K. Bopp and hosted by The timeline attempts to track the significant developments associated with genetic genealogy. It begins with “Before 1980” and was updated most recently as of October 2007.

What immediately stands out is that genetic genealogy has been around much longer than people realize, especially given the recent media attention. I began my exploration of genetic genealogy in 2003, but by 2000 there were already as many as 4 surname projects begun by hobbyists! As of September 2007, one company (Family Tree DNA) had over 4,200 surname projects that contained more than 66,000 surnames. There are even more surname projects hosted by other companies, including Heritage DNA.

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myDNAchoice – Are Your Surfing Habits the Result of Your Genome?


VortexDNA today announced the launch of myDNAchoice, a website and Firefox extension aimed at mapping the DNA of “human intention” to help users map their interactions with the internet. Nick Gerritsen, a director of VortexDNA, believes that “this includes better search results, meeting people like you, letting people find you on your favourite sites, and much more–without ever compromising your privacy.”

Although it is a bit confusing, myDNAchoice is a browser tool to help users organize the web based on their interactions with the internet, both previous (reflected in the short survey taken at installation) and future (new surveys taken through time). This browser tool, the company asserts, may result in as much as a 14% increase in search relevancy as compared to Google Search.A user begins by installing the mywebDNA Firefox extension in Firefox:

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More Genetic Genealogy In The News

Genetic genealogy is everywhere right now – Science, CBC, Reuters, and LiveScience, just to name a few. This week two articles came out that gave readers both the ups and downs of genetic genealogy, gathering and presenting information and quotes from both sides.

The first article, “DNA testing for genealogy grows in popularity, but some urge restraint” appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on the 9th. The second article is entitled “Ancestral DNA testing is not exact science” and although the assertion in the title wasn’t developed in the short article, the author went to authorities with opposite viewpoints and presented both in the article.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, who was quoted in the second article, blogged about some of her thoughts on the topic yesterday.

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The Latest on 23andMe


Three weeks ago, 23andMe launched their personal genome service. In the meantime, the launch has prompted a great deal of discussion. Additionally, a few of the earliest customers have already received their results. Here are links to some of the most interesting posts regarding 23andMe’s service.

To Be or Not to Be: 23andMe
LaunchSquad received their 23andMe kit in the mail, causing them to ponder the benefits, considerations, and services involved in genetic testing.After introspection, they decide to spit and mail.

Know Your Genes, Know Your Future
GeneratedMadness decides that the benefits of 23andMe’s service outweighs the potential negatives.

I Like The Way You Stink
Mark Brooks at Online Personals Watch has already received the results of his analysis.

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Are You Thinking About Genetic Testing?

dna-stock_phixr.JPGIf you’re thinking about jumping into the field of genetic testing (whether for genetic genealogy or any other form of genetic test), you should be sure to do some research first. The results of any genetic test are incredibly personal, and can potentially have a huge impact. As a result, the decision to undergo testing should only be made after doing some vital research.

Luckily, a fellow DNA Network blogger has written a post that will help you do this important pre-testing research. Hsien at Eye on DNA has written “How to Prepare Yourself for a Genetic Test.” Hsien provides the following advice:

“Although you can’t change your DNA, it is possible to prep yourself for a DNA test just as it’s possible to prep yourself for a driving test. It is critically important that anyone undergoing DNA testing learn as much as they can about the results they can expect to receive, the interpretation of these results, and the impact results may have on their life choices.”

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New Information From

This weekend I wrote about an article that appeared in LifeScience entitled “DNA Kits: Secrets of Your Past or Scientific Scam?” The article made some strong negative statements about genetic genealogy, and I took the opportunity to discuss the issues it raised.

Soon after, my concerns were echoed at in “Anthropologist Meredith Small says DNA testing is a scam.” The author had many of the same concerns, and also attempted to explain the science behind the tests.

If you’re interested in learning more about the science, or furthering the discussion we’ve started, please feel free to leave a comment here or at

Genetic Genealogy at CBC’s Marketplace

Dr. Moran at Sandwalk brought to my attention a recent segment about genetic genealogy on Marketplace called “Who’s Your Grand Daddy?”Marketplace is a Canadian television program.In his post, Dr. Moran states:

“I’m disturbed by the fact that we have a number of prominent bloggers pushing DNA testing. You’d think they would be all over this story. You’d think that they would be in the front lines in the attack on unscrupulous private companies who are overselling the idea of tracing your ancestors through your DNA.If you thought that you’d be wrong. Some of these bloggers are even denying there’s a problem.”

granddad_phixr.JPGDuring the Marketplace segment, Johnna – a woman they interview who is interested in learning more about her ancestry – discovers that she belongs to Haplogroup H.Unfortunately, Johnna had expected to learn more about her ancestry, such as the names of ancestors.It would appear that Johnna did not do any research about genetic genealogy.

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Another Questionable Article About Genetic Genealogy

I honestly don’t know what to do with this next article. Meredith F. Small Ph.D., an anthropologist at Cornell University, wrote a brief article at LiveScience entitled “DNA Kits: Secrets of Your Past or Scientific Scam?” Dr. Small’s article is largely a comment on the article that appeared earlier this fall in Science, “The Science and Business of Genetic Ancestry Testing” (I provided an analysis of the article here at TGG).

According to Dr. Small:

“[The quest for identity] also leads unwary seekers of the past right into the hands of scam artists who claim they can trace anyone’s DNA back to its source.”

The sentence is extremely misleading:

First – a scam artist is by definition a person who engages in a “fraudulent business scheme.” Although genetic genealogy can be controversial, I’ve never heard a single customer accuse a company of running a scam. To the best of my knowledge, these testing companies are using the best science available to test DNA and compare results to their databases. Are physicians running a scam if they use open-heart surgery to fix a heart, rather than a simple pill that will be invented in 5 years? All technology is based on the best developed science right now. A company might have a limited database or only test a limited number of markers, but this does not qualify them as running a “scam.”

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When Will They Learn?

Andy Sullivan is a general-assignment reporter for Reuters and just wrote “DNA Tests Don’t Always Help Uncover Family.” The article discusses his recent experience with genetic genealogy, including a Y-DNA and mtDNA test from DNA Ancestry.

Although the article is a little light on the genetic genealogy and incorporates a discussion of an online genealogy database, it is always interesting to read an article by someone who has just been tested. As I was reading the article, the following paragraph jumped out of the page and slapped me in the face:

“These tests promise to reveal long-lost relatives, uncover roots obscured by slavery, or simply allow those curious about where they came from to skip all that tedious digging.”

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