Finding Your Roots (2012) DVD The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of this 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates. Continuing on the quest begun in his previous projects, African American Lives, African American Lives 2 and Faces of America, Gates finds new ways to, as he says, "get into the DNA of American culture." He takes viewers along for the journey with one celebrity pair bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link. And he treks through layers of ancestral history to uncover the secrets and surprises of their family trees.
Gates' guest pairings include...
- Award-winning husband-and-wife actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, who are revealed to be distant cousins;
- New Orleans jazz masters and close friends Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis, whose European immigrant ancestors made very different choices in the slave-era South;
- Spiritual leaders Angela Buchdahl, Yasir Qadhi and Rick Warren, whose ancestors' paths to America were shaped by religious convictions; and
- Education superstar Geoffrey Canada and media legend Barbara Walters, who both rediscover family histories long obscured by forgotten name changes.
Gates shares the findings with each guest and travels with them as they process what they've learned. He accompanies musician John Legend to a rock concert, goes backstage on Broadway with Samuel L. Jackson, joins Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker as he reveals the root-seeking results to his parents, and trails Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Geoffrey Canada to memorable family reunions. The series searches through several branches of the American past, leaving audiences all the more curious about their own background and eager to unearth their own family roots.
Faces of America (2010) DVD What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Building on the success of his series African American Lives (called by the New York Times "the most exciting and stirring documentary on any subject to appear on television in a long time") and African American Lives 2, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. again turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans.
Looking beyond the black experience to the wider immigrant experience, Professor Gates unravels the American tapestry, following the threads of his guests' lives back to their earliest origins around the globe. Along the way, the many stories he uncovers -- of displacement and homecoming, of material success and dispossession, of assimilation and discrimination -- illuminate the American experience. Professor Gates' guests include professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander, who composed and read the poem at President Barack Obama's inauguration, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
The Human Family Tree (2009) DVD Join geneticist Spencer Wells and a team of technicians from National Geographic's Genographic Project as they trace the human journey through time and space, from our origins in the heart of Africa to the ends of the world. Cutting edge science, coupled with a cast of New Yorkers—each with their own unique genetic history—will help paint a picture of these amazing journeys.
African American Lives 2 (2008) DVD In February 2006 the PBS series African American Lives narrated by acclaimed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates showed the results of extensive genealogical searches of prominent African Americans including composer and producer Quincy Jones talk show host Oprah Winfrey and comedian Chris Tucker. Reaction to the show spurred thousands of black Americans to begin or renew the search especially with the help of DNA testing to find their origins. Gates and PBS have teamed up for a sequel that will air in February 2008 but this version will have a twist: A member of the general public will be selected to have his or her genealogical roots traced. The winner s story will be told along with those of several celebrities including Chris Rock Morgan Freeman Tom Joyner Maya Angelou Don Cheadle and others.
African American Lives (2006) DVD A compelling combination of storytelling and science AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES is an unprecedented four-hour series on PBS that takes Alex Haley's Roots saga to a whole new level. The series will profile some of the most accomplished African-Americans of our time using genealogy and DNA to trace their roots down through American history and back to Africa. Hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. W.E.B. Du Bois professor of the Humanities and chair of African and African-American Studies at Harvard UniversityDr. Gates will provide access to the day-to-day lives of several prominent African-Americans drawing on photographs film clips music and early personal records while a team of researchers genealogists and forensic DNA analysts will conduct investigations into their family histories. By spotlighting African-American role models the series hopes to inspire millions to consider their own heritage and underscore for all Americans the importance of knowing their past in order to unlock the future.
Journey of Man (2003) DVD How did the human race populate the world? A group of geneticists have worked on the question for a decade, arriving at a startling conclusion: the "global family tree" can be traced to one African man who lived 60,000 years ago. Dr. Spencer Wells hosts this innovative series, featuring commentary by expert scientists, historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists.
November 11, 2013
On November 9th & 10th, 2013, I attended the Family Tree DNA 9th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy in Houston, Texas. The conference is limited to group administrators, who pay the conference fee and pay their own way to get there. This was my 6th trip to the conference.
The big news was the BIG Y test.It tests nearly 25,000 known SNPs, placing you deep on the haplotree. There is 10 Million base-pair coverage - more than any other Y-DNA test on the market.
You may find SNPs that may be completely unique to you. It will explore your deep paternal ancestry, help the community uncover new, undiscovered SNPs, and allow you to use your newly discovered SNPs to help grow the haplotree
March 6, 2013
The father of all men is 340,000 years old
Colin Barras in NewScientist
Albert Perry carried a secret in his DNA: a Y chromosome so distinctive that it reveals new information about the origin of our species. It shows that the last common male ancestor down the paternal line of our species is over twice as old as we thought.
One possible explanation is that hundreds of thousands of years ago, modern and archaic humans in central Africa interbred, adding to known examples of interbreeding – with Neanderthals in the Middle East, and with the enigmatic Denisovans somewhere in southeast Asia.
Perry, recently deceased, was an African-American who lived in South Carolina. A few years ago, one of his female relatives submitted a sample of his DNA to a company called Family Tree DNA for genealogical analysis.
Geneticists can use such samples to work out how we are related to one another. Hundreds of thousands of people have now had their DNA tested. The data from these tests had shown that all men gained their Y chromosome from a common male ancestor. This genetic "Adam" lived between 60,000 and 140,000 years ago.
All men except Perry, that is. When Family Tree DNA's technicians tried to place Perry on the Y-chromosome family tree, they just couldn't. His Y chromosome was like no other so far analysed.
Michael Hammer, a geneticist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, heard about Perry's unusual Y chromosome and did some further testing. His team's research revealed something extraordinary: Perry did not descend from the genetic Adam. In fact, his Y chromosome was so distinct that his male lineage probably separated from all others about 338,000 years ago.
"The Y-chromosome tree is much older than we thought," says Chris Tyler-Smith at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, who was not involved in the study. He says further work will be needed to confirm exactly how much older.
"It's a cool discovery," says Jon Wilkins of the Ronin Institute in Montclair, New Jersey. "We geneticists have been looking at Y chromosomes about as long as we've been looking at anything. Changing where the root of the Y-chromosome tree is at this point is extremely surprising."
Digging deeper, Hammer's team examined an African database of nearly 6000 Y chromosomes and found similarities between Perry's and those in samples taken from 11 men, all living in one village in Cameroon. This may indicate where in Africa Perry's ancestors hailed from.
Older than humanity
The first anatomically modern human fossils date back only 195,000 years, so Perry's Y chromosome lineage split from the rest of humanity long before our species appeared.
What are the implications? One possibility is that Perry's Y chromosome may have been inherited from an archaic human population that has since gone extinct. If that's the case, then some time within the last 195,000 years, anatomically modern humans interbred with an ancient African human.
There is some supporting evidence for this scenario. In 2011, researchers examined human fossils from a Nigerian site called Iwo Eleru. The fossils showed a strange mix of ancient and modern features, which also suggested interbreeding between modern and archaic humans. "The Cameroon village with an unusual genetic signature is right on the border with Nigeria, and Iwo Eleru is not too far away," says Hammer.
Chris Stringer at the Natural History Museum, London, was involved in the Iwo Eleru analysis, and says the new Y chromosome result highlights the need for more genetic data from modern-day sub-Saharan Africans. "The oldest known fossil humans in both West Africa at Iwo Eleru and Central Africa at Ishango [in Democratic Republic of the Congo] show unexpectedly archaic features, so it certainly looks like we have a more complex scenario for the evolution of modern humans in Africa."
November 12, 2012
On November 10th & 11th, 2012, I attended the Family Tree DNA 8th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy in Houston, Texas. The conference is limited to group administrators, who pay the conference fee and pay their own way to get there. This was my 5th trip to the conference.
Dr. Spencer Wells, via Skype from Florence, Italy, announced the National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 test. This new GenoChip test examines 150,000 markers, approximately 12,000 Y-DNA SNPs, 3,200 mtDNA SNPs, and 130,000 autosomal and X-chromosome SNPs from across the entire human genome to provide unprecedented ancestry-relevant information, including ancient hominid ancestry. SNPs identified with Neanderthals, Denisovans, Chimps, Aboriginals, Paleo-Eskimos are included. The cost is $199. Currently the test is only available through National Geographic, but FTDNA hopes to receive approval to offer and integrate the test into its product offerings sometime next year.
Dr. Doron Behar spoke of a “Copernican” effort to reassess the human mitochondrial tree from its root. Currently, we used the rCRS, a randomly developed reference sequence. This presents a host of long term problems. What is proposed is switching to a Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence (RSRS) based on a human mtDNA phylogeny root. To facilitate data transition, the website www.mtdnacommunity.org was established and is committed to the support of the “Copernican” reassessment of the human mtDNA phylogeny and to the establishment of computational tools meant to facilitate phylogenetic analysis and comparison of complete mtDNA sequences. The website allows an easy transition from an rCRS to an RSRS based nomenclature, automatically labels haplogroups, performs a phylogeny based quality check, identifies private substitutions, and compares new sequences with previously stored mitogenomes to suggest the labeling of additional haplogroups.
Dr. Michael Hammer, with Thomas Krahn and Bonnie Schrack, spoke of very recently discovered individual(s) who have a Y-DNA lineage that predates any currently known lineage, moving the TMRCA for Y-DNA Adam from 60 – 120 kya to 140 – 237 kya. This is older than the oldest known fossil of modern humans, introducing the possibility of archaic DNA introgression.
Because there have been so many Y-DNA markers found in the past year, the current Y-DNA haplogroup nomenclature will be going away. For example, instead of R1B1A2, only your endpoint marker will be used – M269.
Elliot Greenspan, the FTDNA IT director, spoke of system changes for next year. They include: displaying micro alleles (partials) and palindromes, a revamped MyFTDNA webpage, Family Tree viewer which will show your whole GEDCOM, not just your direct line, upgraded population finder databases, changes to the FamilyFinder chromosome browser and filtering options, chromosome painting, and phasing.
Judy Russell, JD, the Legal Genealogist, spoke of regulatory concerns including informed consent, privacy rights, access to data, and truth in advertising.
Dr. Tyrone Powers showed how to use the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English ‘Origenes’ websites to use the surnames of the people with whom one shares a common male ancestor as revealed by the Y-DNA test to pinpoint where precisely one’s direct male ancestor lived when he first picked his surname many years ago. Surnames can still be found concentrated in the areas where they first arose, so if you review where the surnames are plotted, you can determine a genetic homeland.
November 6, 2011
On November 5th & 6th, 2011, I attended the Family Tree DNA 7th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy in Houston, Texas. The conference is limited to group administrators, who pay the conference fee and pay their own way to get there. This was my 4th trip to the conference.
I found presentations by Michael Hammer and David Pike to be the most interesting to me.
Michael Hammer, Phd, spoke about how in just the past year the finding of Neanderthal DNA (1-4%) in non-Aftrican humans, and archaic Denisovan DNA in central Asians (up to 8% in Melanesians) is causing anthropogists to revise the evolutionary chart from a strict replacement theory to one of inter-breeding, evolutionary changes and eventually replacement.
For those of you who have taken the FamilyFinder test, David Pike spoke about tools he has developed for phasing autosomal DNA. Phasing is the process of determining which half of each base pair tested came from which parent. FTDNA is evaluating autosomal DNA analysis tools to be provided in the future. Look for David Pike’s Tools at www.isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_tools
Available utilities for processing unzipped autosomal files from Family Tree DNA and/or 23andMe:
For a deep example of autosomal DNA phasing, see Phasing the Chromosomes of a Family Group When One Parent is Missing by Whit Athey, Journal of Genetic Genealogy, Vol 6 Num 1, Fall 2010.
FTDNA announced Archives.com as a strategic partner. Archives.com offers the major databases available at Ancestry at a much reduced price.
Bruce Walsh, PhD, gave a presentation that reviewed genetic testing basics. He emphasized that with FamilyFinder autosomal testing, we should be concentrating on matches where the largest matching block is at least 10 cM. Matches below that size may be false positives identical by state (IBS) rather than Identical by descent (IBD). Here again are the average block sizes for each generation:
Gen 1 44.06 cM
Gen 2 19.15 cM
Gen 3 12.30 cM
Gen 4 9.07 cM
Gen 5 7.19 cM
Gen 6 5.95 cM
Gen 7 5.08 cM
Dr. Spencer Wells, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Genographic Project Director said that phase 1 of the project is winding down. Expect several important papers to be released in the coming months. He also said that they still have not had much success getting DNA samples from Native American tribes in the United States.
Thomas Krahn, Phd spoke about additional SNPs they have found on the Y chromosome.
Stephen Morse, Phd walked us through his One-Step Webpages at WWW.STEVEMORSE.ORG On his website he has built powerful searches immigration and census records plus much much more.
Elliott Greenspan, director of Information Technology at FTDNA, announced there will be a new release of your MyFTDNA webpages made available in the near future. It will have new section landing pages, profile pages, advance matching (power search), and an interactive tour. FTDNA is processing 2.33 petabytes of data. There are 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes in 1 petabyte.
Peter Hrechdakian spoke about the Armenian DNA project, and the surprizing haplogroup diversity of Armenians. During the Armenian genocide, an estimated 1.5 million of 2 million Armenians were killed.
Per Biggins, administrator of the Colla DNA project spoke of the many families related to the three powerful Colla brothers who lived in 4th century Ireland.
Jessica Roberts, JD, spoke about the attempts to use of genetic testing to prove relation in immigration cases.
Richard Hill spoke of his personal story as an adoptee in using genetic testing to find his birth parents. He has a website, www.dna-testing-adviser.com which describes the basics of DNA testing with additional advice for adoptees.
September 5, 2011
Anatomically modern humans interbred with more archaic hominin forms even before they migrated out of Africa, a UA-led team of researchers has found.
University of Arizona
It is now widely accepted that anatomically modern humans of the species Homo sapiens originated in Africa and eventually spread throughout the world. Ancient DNA recovered from fossil Neanderthal bones suggests they interbred with more archaic hominin forms once they had left their evolutionary cradle for the cooler climates of Eurasia, but whether they exchanged genetic material with other, now extinct archaic hominin varieties in Africa remained unclear.
In a paper published in thee Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, a team led by Michael Hammer, an associate professor and research scientist with the UA's Arizona Research Labs, provides evidence that anatomically modern humans were not so unique that they remained separate.
"We found evidence for hybridization between modern humans and archaic forms in Africa. It looks like our lineage has always exchanged genes with their more morphologically diverged neighbors," said Hammer, who also holds appointments in the UA's department of ecology and evolutionary biology, the school of anthropology, the BIO5 Institute and the Arizona Cancer Center.
The team reports that contemporary African populations contain a small proportion of genetic material brought in by an archaic population that split from the ancestors of anatomically modern humans about 700,000 years ago.
Hammer added that recent advances in molecular biology have made it possible to extract DNA from fossils tens of thousands of years old and compare it to that of modern counterparts.
However, "We don't have fossil DNA from Africa to compare with ours," he said. "Neanderthals lived in colder climates, but the climate in more tropical areas make it very tough for DNA to survive that long, so recovering usable samples from fossil specimens is extremely difficult if not impossible."
"Our work is different from the research that led to the breakthroughs in Neanderthal genetics," he explained. "We couldn't look directly for ancient DNA that is 40,000 years old and make a direct comparison."
To get past this hindrance, Hammer's team followed a computational and statistical approach.
"Instead, we looked at DNA from modern humans belonging to African populations and searched for unusual regions in the genome."
Because nobody knows the DNA sequences of those now extinct archaic forms, Hammer's team first had to figure out what features of modern DNA might represent fragments that were brought in from archaic forms.
"What we do know is that the sequences of those forms, even the Neanderthals, are not that different from modern humans," he said. "They have certain characteristics that make them different from modern DNA."
The researchers used simulations to predict what ancient DNA sequences would look like had they survived within the DNA of our own cells.
"You could say we simulated interbreeding and exchange of genetic material in silico," Hammer said. "We can simulate a model of hybridization between anatomically modern humans and some archaic form. In that sense, we simulate history so that we can see what we would expect the pattern to look like if it did occur."
According to Hammer, the first signs of anatomically modern features appeared about 200,000 years ago. Non-modern varieties of Homo are thought to have emerged about 300,000 years earlier and have survived until as recently as 30,000 years ago or even later.
First, the team sequenced vast regions of human genomes from samples taken from six different populations living in Africa today and tried to match up their sequences with what they expected those sequences to look like in archaic forms. The researchers focused on non-coding regions of the genome, stretches of DNA that do not contain genes, which serve as the blueprints for proteins.
"Then we asked ourselves what does the general pattern of variation look like in the DNA that we sequenced in those African populations, and we started to look at regions that looked unusual," Hammer said. "We discovered three different genetic regions fit the criteria for being archaic DNA still present in the genomes of sub-Saharan Africans. Interestingly, this signature was strongest in populations from central Africa."
The scientists applied several criteria to tag a DNA sequence as archaic. For example, if a DNA sequence differed radically from the ones found in a modern population, it was likely to be ancient in origin. Another telltale sign is how far it extends along a chromosome. If an unusual piece is found to stretch a long portion of a chromosome, it is an indication of being brought into the population relatively recently.
"We are talking about something that happened between 20,000 and 60,000 years ago – not that long ago in the scheme of things," Hammer said. "If interbreeding occurs, it's going to bring in a whole chromosome, and over time, recombination events will chop the chromosome down to smaller pieces. And those pieces will now be found as short, unusual fragments. By looking at how long they are we can get an estimate of how far back the interbreeding event happened."
Hammer said that even though the archaic DNA sequences account for only two or three percent of what is found in modern humans, that doesn't mean the interbreeding wasn't more extensive.
"It could be that this represents what's left of a more extensive archaic genetic content today. Many of the sequences we looked for would be expected to be lost over time. Unless they provide a distinct evolutionary advantage, there is nothing keeping them in the population and they drift out."
In a next step, Hammer's team wants to look for ancient DNA regions that conferred some selective advantage to the anatomically modern humans once they acquired them.
"We think there were probably thousands of interbreeding events," Hammer said. "It happened relatively extensively and regularly."
"Anatomically modern humans were not so unique that they remained separate," he added. "They have always exchanged genes with their more morphologically diverged neighbors. This is quite common in nature, and it turns out we're not so unusual after all."
The paper, Genetic Evidence for Archaic Admixture in Africa, was co-authored by August Woerner from the UA's ARL Division of Biotechnology, Fernando Mendez from the UA's department of ecology and evolutionary biology, Joseph Watkins from the UA's Mathematics Department and Jeffrey Wall from the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of California San Francisco.
July 1, 2011
As of April 19, 2011, DNA Heritage has ceased its operations. DNA Heritage is transferring their existing customers' results to Family Tree DNA.
Y-DNA Conversion customers may choose a basic Y-DNA Conversion of DNA Heritage results that will allow them to view their results in a new account and join group projects. This is the Y-DNA Conversion. The Y-DNA Conversion is FREE. Database matching is at the Y-DNA25 level and haplogroup prediction does not include SNP Assurance.
After customers complete the Y-DNA Conversion, they may order upgrades at a discounted price.
April 5, 2011
We are excited to announce the launch of our new Y-DNA111 test!
This test includes a panel of 111 Y chromosome Short Tandem Repeat (STR) markers.* With 44 additional markers, Y-DNA111 is the highest resolution Y-DNA test offered by any company in the world.
The Y-DNA111 test is recommended for customers who already have close matches at the 67 marker level and are looking to tighten the calculation for the time to Most Recent Common Ancestor (tMRCA).** Due to the specialized nature of this test and in order to evaluate the potential benefit of this type of upgrade, we ask that customers with Y-DNA12, 25, or 37 results upgrade to 67 markers first before considering the 111 marker test.
With that in mind, this new test is now available as an upgrade for customers with existing Y-DNA67 results and also as a standalone test for individuals looking to prove a close relationship on the direct paternal line:
Y Refine 67 to 111 (upgrade) $129
Y DNA 111 $339February 10, 2011
FTDNA will be retesting everyone who has purchased the Family Finder product with the Illiumina OmniExpress chip. This new platform will allow FTDNA better opportunities for upgrades in the future.
October 31, 2010
On October 30 & 31, 2010, I attended the Family Tree DNA 6th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy in Houston, Texas. The conference is limited to group administrators, who paid their own way to get there. The conference also marked the 10th anniversary of Family Tree DNA as a company.
While topic presenters Michael Hammer, Doron Behar, and Thomas Krahn did speak to traditional Y-DNA and mtDNA topics (which I will not address here), the real excitement of the conference was the new autosomal DNA testing product Family Finder, and the future promise of full genome testing.
Bruce Walsh, PhD, gave a presentation on the science behind autosomal testing. The autosomal signal is rapidly lost for each succeeding generation. If two individuals share a common ancestor k generations back, then the chance they share the same allele from that ancestor is (1/2)2k-1
For k = 1, this is 50%
For k = 2, this is 12.5%
For k = 3, this is 3.1%
For k = 4, this is 0.78%
For k = 5, this is 0.19%
For k = 6, this is 0.05%
For k = 7, this is 0.01%
Therefore, autosomal testing will only confidently capture relationships up to the 3rd generation. Relationships in the 4th – 20th generation may also be captured, but may be beyond the period from which the paper trail may be found to explain the relationship, and no prediction can be made as to where in the range the relationship occurred.
The cutoff for the average size of a block of shared DNA for 3 generations is 10 cM. Here are the average block sizes for each generation:
Gen 1 44.06 cM
Gen 2 19.15 cM
Gen 3 12.30 cM
Gen 4 9.07 cM
Gen 5 7.19 cM
Gen 6 5.95 cM
Gen 7 5.08 cM
The current Affymetrix chip FTDNA uses for autosomal testing tests for 500,000 SNPs. Chips with the ability to testing 2 million SNPs may be available in 2 – 3 years.
Bennett Greenspan, founder of FTDNA, shared his own results from FamilyFinder. Full genome testing is available now for about $50,000 from other vendors.
The 1000 Genomes Project is the first project to sequence the genomes of a large number of people, to provide a comprehensive resource on human genetic variation. Data from the 1000 Genomes Project will be made available quickly to the worldwide scientific community through freely accessible public databases.
The Archon X Prize for Genomics, announced in 2006, is a $10 million prize is to be awarded to the first team that can build a device and use it to sequence 100 human genomes within 10 days or less, with an accuracy of no more than one error in every 100,000 bases sequenced, with sequences accurately covering at least 98% of the genome, and at a recurring cost of no more than $10,000 (US) per genome.
Charmaine Royal, PhD, spoke about the increasing public interest in direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic ancestry testing which has been accompanied by growing concern about issues ranging from the personal and societal implications of the testing to the scientific validity of ancestry inference. She was lead author of the following paper: "Genetic Ancestry Testing Challenges Identified by American Society of Human Genetics Task Force.", American Society of Human Genetics, 13 May 2010.
Matt Kaplan & Taylor Edwards presented the following findings from this report: Because the science of ancestry determination has limitations, greater efforts are needed on the part of both industry and academia to make the limitations of ancestry estimation clearer to consumers, the scientific community, and the public at large. In turn, the public has the responsibility to avail themselves of information regarding ancestry testing and strive to better understand the implications and limitations of these assessments. Additional research is required to further understand the extent to which the accuracy of genetic ancestry estimation is influenced by the individuals represented in existing databases, geographical patterns of human diversity, marker selection and statistical methods. The complex consequences of ancestry estimation for people, families, and populations need to be assessed and guidelines should be developed to facilitate explanation and/or counseling about ancestry estimation in research, DTC and health care settings. Scientists inferring genetic ancestry should consult or collaborate with scholars who have expertise in the historical, sociopolitical and cultural contexts needed to inform the processes and outcomes of their research and commercial efforts. Mechanisms for greater accountability of the DTC ancestry testing industry should be explored.
Katherine Borges, president of the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG), spoke about the mission of ISOGG which is to advocate for and educate about the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research, and promote a supportive network for genetic genealogists. Membership is free. For more information about this organization go to their website: http://www.isogg.org/
May 7, 2010
Neanderthals and Humans share DNA On page 710 of this week's issue of Science, an international team of researchers presents their first detailed analysis of the draft sequence of the Neandertal genome, which now includes more than 3 billion nucleotides collected from the bones of three female Neandertals who lived in Croatia more than 38,000 years ago. By comparing this composite Neandertal genome with the complete genomes of five living humans from different parts of the world, the researchers found that both Europeans and Asians share 1% to 4% of their nuclear DNA with Neandertals. But Africans do not. This suggests that early modern humans interbred with Neandertals after moderns left Africa, but before they spread into Asia and Europe. In a separate paper (p. 723), the team describes and successfully tests a new method for filling in gaps in the rough draft of the genome. Ann Gibbons Science 7 May 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5979, pp. 680 - 684
April 20, 2010
FTDNA Announces Family Finder While the Y-DNA matches men with a specific paternal line, and the mtDNA finds potential relatives only along the maternal line, Family Finder can look for close relationships along all ancestral lines. You may now match to male and female cousins from any of your family lines within about five generations. The science uses linked blocks of DNA across the 22 autosomal chromosomes and matches them between two people. Our bioinformatics team has worked extensively to develop the calculations to determine the closeness of the relationship. The possibilities to find matches abound: Aunts & Uncles, Parents and Grandparents Half siblings and 1st cousins 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins Possibly 5th cousins. Although that will require some digging! When you take the Family Finder test, your results are compared against our Family Finder database. You will be able to: sort your matches by degree of relationship view their names and e-mail address for immediate communication download your raw data Family Finder test is priced at $289, and can be ordered from the menu on the left side of the personal page.
February 23, 2010
Who Do You Think You Are? begins Friday, March 5, 2010 at 8/7c on NBC. Share a heartwarming journey through family history with Sarah Jessica Parker,Emmitt Smith, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon and Spike Lee as they discover the stories of their ancestors. Who Do You Think You Are? will also help people everywhere better understand how to discover their own family stories.
The new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. premieres nationally Wednesdays, February 10 - March 3, 2010 from 8-9 p.m. ET on PBS. What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Building on the success of his series African American Lives (called by the New York Times "the most exciting and stirring documentary on any subject to appear on television in a long time,") and African American Lives 2, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. again turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans. The compelling family stories of 12 celebrities, including poet Elizabeth Alexander, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, writer Junot Diaz, writer Louise Erdrich, writer Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Dr. Mehmet Oz, former monarch of Jordan Queen Noor, actress Meryl Streep and Olympic gold medalist and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, will demonstrate the richness of family history.
August 23, 2009
Watch The Human Family Tree on National Geographic Channel Sunday, August 30th 9 pm et/pt On a single day on a single street, with the DNA of just a couple of hundred random people, National Geographic Channel sets out to trace the ancestral footsteps of all humanity. Narrated by Kevin Bacon, The Human Family Tree travels to one of the most diverse corners of the world -- Queens, N.Y. -- to demonstrate how we all share common ancestors who embarked on very different journeys. Regardless of race, nationality or religion, all of us can trace our ancient origin back to the cradle of humanity, East Africa. What did our collective journey look like, and where did it take your specific ancestors? At what point in our past did we first cross paths with the supposed strangers living in our neighborhood? Now, in The Human Family Tree, the people of this quintessential American melting pot find out that their connections go much deeper than a common ZIP code.
April 18, 2009
On March 14 &15, 2009, I attended the Family Tree DNA 5th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy for Group Administrators in Houston, Texas. The conference was limited to about 200 group administrators, who paid their own way to get there. The conference had been rescheduled from September 2008 because of hurricane Ike.
Bennett Greenspan and Max Blankfeld of FTDNA recently traveled to England to participate in the 2009 Who Do You Think You Are? conference. Who Do You Think You Are? is a British genealogy documentary series that has aired on the BBC since 2004. In each episode, a celebrity goes on a journey to trace his or her family tree. Bennett and Max announced they will be aggresively going after the U.K. DNA testing market. That would be great if we can start getting some more matches from across the pond. Also, there may be an American version of the show that will start airing at a date to be determined on NBC. Check you local listings.
Dr. Spencer Wells, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Genographic Project Director gave a quick review of the Genographic Project. He expects they will actually end DNA sampling of indigenous peoples in 2010, as the project reaches its conclusion. Dr. Wells felt that climate change was the main determination for the ancient migration out of Africa. At times in the past, the Saharan region of Africa has had enough moisture to support humans and support the migration out of Africa. Be on the lookout in August, 2009 for a major ‘tentpole’ presentation special on the National Geographic channel by Dr. Wells.
Ricki Wells spoke on the impact of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act passed in May 2008. This doesn’t impact FTDNA per se, as Y chromosome testing does not have medical implications, but there are a number of products on the market such as 23andMe, Navigenics, and deCODEme that will tell you if you carry the markers for certain medical conditions.
Katherine Hope Borges, director of the ISOGG – International Society of Genetic Genealogy said that this should concern us, as legislators are under increasing pressure to regulate the direct-to-consumer genetic testing market which may limit our freedom to obtain DNA for genealogy purposes in the future.
FTDNA will be changing the way it counts short tandem repeats (STRs) in three cases. Your current value for DYS441 will increase by +1, DYS442 will increase by +5, and Y-GATA-H4 will increase by +1. The reason for this change is the application of standards by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which differ from when the markers were first discovered and published. This will reduce some of the differences in existence between FTDNA and other testing companies. No date has been set for when this will happen. If you’ve copied your test results elsewhere please note to make the change when it happens.
Dr. Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona presented the latest phylogenic tree of Y-chromosome haplogroups. An ever larger number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are being discovered and placed on the tree, allowing deeper subclade analysis of the haplogroups.
November 24, 2008
FTDNA lowered Group discount price for Y-DNA37 - 37 marker test from $189 to $149, and the Y-DNA67 - 67 marker test from $269 to $248.
May 5, 2008
2008 Y-Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree released. FTDNA may have updated your haplogroup with current standard nomenclature.
April 24, 2008
GENOGRAPHIC NEWS: EARLY HUMAN POPULATIONS EVOLVED SEPARATELY FOR 100,000 YEARS WASHINGTON, DC (April 24, 2008) —A team of Genographic researchers and their collaborators have published the most extensive survey to date of African mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Over 600 complete mtDNA genomes from indigenous populations across the continent were analyzed by the scientists, led by Doron Behar, Genographic Associate Researcher, based at Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, and Saharon Rosset of IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, NY and Tel Aviv University. Analyses of the extensive data presented in this study provide surprising insights into the early demographic history of human populations before they moved out of Africa, illustrating that these early human populations were small and isolated from each other for many tens of thousands of years. MtDNA, inherited down the maternal line, was used to discover the age of the famous 'mitochondrial Eve' in 1987. This work has since been extended to show unequivocally that the most recent common female ancestor of everyone alive today was an African woman who lived in the past 200,000 years. Paleontology provides corroborating evidence that our species originated on this continent approximately 200,000 years ago. The migrations after 60,000 years ago that led modern humans on their epic journeys to populate the world have been the primary focus of anthropological genetic research, but relatively little is known about the demographic history of our species over the previous 140,000 years in Africa. The current study returns the focus to Africa and in doing so refines our understanding of early modern Homo sapiens history. Doron Behar, Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, said: "We see strong evidence of ancient population splits beginning as early as 150,000 years ago, probably giving rise to separate populations localized to Eastern and Southern Africa. It was only around 40,000 years ago that they became part of a single pan-African population, reunited after as much as 100,000 years apart." Recent paleoclimatological data suggests that Eastern Africa went through a series of massive droughts between 135,000-90,000 years ago. It is possible that this climatological shift contributed to the population splits. What is surprising is the length of time the populations were separate - as much as half of our entire history as a species. Saharon Rosset, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, NY and Tel Aviv University, said: "The analysis of such a massive dataset presents statistical and computational challenges as well as great opportunities for discovery of the events that shaped our history and genetic landscape. For example, we can see evidence of a population expansion period starting around 70,000 years ago, perhaps leading to the out of Africa dispersal shortly afterward." The timing of these events coincides with the onset of the Late Stone Age in Africa, a change in material culture that many archaeologists believe heralds the beginning of fully modern human behavior, including abstract thought and complex spoken language. Previous studies have shown that while human populations had been quite small prior to the Late Stone Age, perhaps numbering fewer than 2,000 around 70,000 years ago, the expansion after this time led to the occupation of many previously uninhabited areas, including the world beyond Africa. Dr. Spencer Wells, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Director of the Genographic Project, said: “This new study released today illustrates the extraordinary power of genetics to reveal insights into some of the key events in our species' history. Tiny bands of early humans, forced apart by harsh environmental conditions, coming back from the brink to reunite and populate the world. Truly an epic drama, written in our DNA.” Paleontologist Meave Leakey, Genographic Advisory Board member, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Research Professor, Stony Brook University, added: "Who would have thought that as recently as 70,000 years ago, extremes of climate had reduced our population to such small numbers that we were on the very edge of extinction." To see the entire article go to http://www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic
November 4, 2007
A couple of important announcements: First, Pat Griffith is retiring from active stewardship of the Davis/Davies/David surname project.
Pat has been the Project Group Administrator since its inception 5 years ago. It will be hard to replace her experience, leadership and dedication. I hope you will join me in thanking Pat for all she has done. I will be taking her place. Pat will stay on temporarily as co-administrator until I find a backup for when I am on vacation or ill. If you are interested, please let me know. Secondly, FTDNA has given the project Group Administrators the capability to offer member subgrouping by color. If you are interested in this, please send me an e-mail. Include in your e-mail which kit numbers you would like to be part of your subgroup
On October 20th and 21st, I attended FTDNA's 4th conference on Genetic Genealogy in Houston, Texas. Among the topics presented were:
Roberta Estes gave a presentation on the lost colony of Roanoke Island, NC. One hundred fifteen settlers were left on Roanoke Island in 1587 while the ship returned to England for supplies. In 1590, when the ship returned, the settlement was gone. Roberta's project is to solve the mystery of the missing colony. She will be looking for DNA traces of the Europeans among the Native Americans of the area. David Soria, a research fellow with the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, showed some slides from a recent trip to gather DNA from indigenous people in Peru.
John Butler, from the DNA measurements group of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), said that standards exist for only a handful of the markers that FTDNA offers. So when the government catches up on issuing standards, be aware that FTDNA may be making some adjustments to existing counts. Also take note that competing testing labs may not be using the same standard, so please take this into account when comparing results from tests outside FTDNA.