DNA and Genealogy

Eye on DNA Headlines for 18 October 2007

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 18, 2007 in DNA and Genealogy, DNA and the Law, Eye on DNA Headlines

france protest against dna testing

*Thanks, Amélie!

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DNA Direct Introduces Ancestry & Ethnicity and Paternity Testing

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 15, 2007 in DNA Testing, DNA and Genealogy

The very first project I was hired to work on at DNA Direct has come to fruition!! We are now offering ancestry and ethnicity DNA testing.

If you’ve ever been interested in learning more about your family history using DNA testing, try our FIND tool that will take you step-by-step through the process of selecting the right genetic test for your interests. There’s also basic information about ancestry and ethnicity testing that will help anyone wanting to learn more about this growing field.

dna direct find genealogy
Come check it out!

Update: DNA Direct is also offering paternity testing! The second project I was assigned.

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Eye on DNA Headlines for 9 October 2007

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 9, 2007 in DNA and Genealogy, Eye on DNA Headlines

  • Welcome Bayblab: Interesting news in science from a bunch of degenerate grad students to The DNA Network! The team at Bayblab brings the total number of DNA Network members to 30. How high can we go? (Here’s more info about The DNA Network.)
  • Jasia at Creative Gene is trying to figure out what her genealogy is worth to her and comes up with a price breakdown for incorporating DNA testing in her genealogical research. I think it’s worth it, what about you?
  • Mary Emma Allen of Alzheimer’s Notes ponders what DNA ancestry testing could tell us about our family history of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • FringeHog comes up with five things to do with your genome. Here’s my list – 5 Cool Things You Can Do With Your DNA. By the way, I’ve added a list of my most popular posts in the sidebar. The 5 Cool Things post is up at the very top!
  • Argentina is collecting DNA from relatives in the hopes of identifying approximately 600 bodies that may be of people who went missing during Argentina’s “Dirty War” that lasted from 1976-1983. DNA from the bodies will be matched with the DNA of relatives.

    Eduardo Luis Duhalde, Argentina’s human rights secretary:

    Part of the anguish one perceives from the mothers and the fathers of the disappeared is that they may die and fear that could hinder the identification process. This project will try to bring them some peace, so they can know that, although they may no longer be here physically, elements will exist allowing us to identify whatever remains are found.

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(>> Start a discussion!)


Genetic Genealogy Mildly Hot

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 8, 2007 in DNA and Genealogy

family tree dna google trends

I was poking around Google Trends this morning and noticed that the search for [family tree dna] had a Hotness rating of “Mild” and was ranked at about 45 or so for a few hours until it dropped off the top 100 list altogether. The search peaked about 15 hours ago and I was scratching my head wondering why especially since “family tree dna” is also the name of an ancestry and genealogy DNA testing company – Family Tree DNA .

I was only able to put it together when I saw that the search peak corresponded to the time CBS made available online the segment Reconstructing The Family Tree (video also at this link) on 60 Minutes in which Family Tree DNA was prominently featured.

As correspondent Lesley Stahl explains, it turns out that inside each one of us, within every cell of our bodies, is information about who our ancestors were, where they lived, and who we’re related to today. Our DNA contains hidden stories about our pasts, and scientists, together with businessmen, are now offering ways to help us read them.

The show featured two “long lost” cousins; one a white cattle rancher in Missouri and the other an African American in Harlem.

“How did you feel about the prospect of having black relatives?” Stahl asks.

“Well, you know, I really, to tell you the truth, it’s just life. I didn’t doubt it a bit,” he [Marion West] says.

Blaine at The Genetic Genealogist has a round-up of other reactions to this piece including one from renowned genetic genealogist Megan Smoleynak.

NB: Don’t miss Gene Genie #17 at Gene Sherpas!

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Eye on DNA Headlines for 2 October 2007

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 2, 2007 in DNA and Genealogy, DNA and the Law, Eye on DNA Headlines

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(>> Start a discussion!)


Boston Celebrities Donate DNA for Genographic Project

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 26, 2007 in DNA and Genealogy, Personalities with DNA

Twenty Boston celebrities will be participating in the Genographic Project. Of those donating their DNA:

  • Actor Ben Affleck
  • Mayor Thomas M. Menino
  • Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart
  • Soccer player Marshall Leonard
  • TV meterologist Mish Michaels

Genographic Project participant radio talk show host Ramiro Torres:

I just want to give a big shoutout to haplogroup A and let anybody else know we are the best. I don’t care if you’re the mayor, or a soccer player, or Ben Affleck – unless you are in my group, you are nobody.

Funny but also not so funny. Could that be the way we’ll discriminate against each other in the future?

Back to the not so serious. If you’re interested in buying celebrity DNA for your own use, Think Geek will send you some of Bill Gates’s DNA for $0.99 and Geraldo Rivera’s for $0.01.

…what we can do is let you purchase the DNA of your favorite celebrity (geek or otherwise) and hope that at some point in the future you can put that DNA to good use! Imagine some of the future possibilities, like: Celebrity-Milkshakes(tm), Celebrity-Pets(tm) and even Celebrity-In-A-Mylar-Bag-Boardgame(tm)!

howard sternBut you might want to think twice about using celebrity DNA for cloning:

A different scare scenario is a world filled with copies of famous people only. We’ll treat celebrity DNA like designer clothes, hankering for Michael Jordan’s genes the way we covet his Nike sneakers today. But even celebrity infatuation has its limits. People are not more taken with celebrities than they are with themselves. Besides, such a trend would correct itself in a generation or two, because celebrity is closely linked to rarity. The world seems amused by one Howard Stern, but give us a hundred or a million of them, and they’ll seem a lot less endearing.

For me, one Howard Stern is one too many!

HT: Genome Technology

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DNA Quote: African-American Identity

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 17, 2007 in DNA Quotes and Excerpts, DNA and Genealogy

africa pendantMore and more African-Americans are choosing to take DNA tests to learn more about their ancestry. For many, it’s a way of learning more about the history that was lost when their ancestors were taken from Africa and sold into slavery in America. But not everyone feels that they need DNA proof to know who they are.

Jacqueline Peavy, a business speaker from Atlanta, said:

I don’t have anything against DNA testing, but I disagree with the idea that you don’t have a history or an identity without it.

I know exactly who I am. I am an amalgamation of many ethnic Africans … I am a new world African in America.

I applaud Ms. Peavy for her strong sense of identity. Our DNA makes us who we are but we’re also a lot more than our DNA.

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The Genographic Project’s Dr. Spencer Wells on Colbert Report

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 15, 2007 in DNA Podcasts and Videos, DNA and Genealogy

Saturday is usually podcast and video day here but this video from yesterday’s Colbert Report featuring Dr. Spencer Wells of The Genographic Project is a must-see (the video is mislabeled on the Colbert site as the segment with Jerry Miller). At the risk of embarrassing myself, I just have to say that Dr. Wells is the perfect spokesperson…for obvious reasons. ;)

Thomas at Epidemix got to watch the entire show and had this to say:

Thing is, Colbert is very good at spotting the zeitgeist and parodying it before others spot it in the first place – so the fact that he’s twice made fun of DNA means that genetics is very much of the moment.

Glad Colbert’s on the DNA bandwagon with us!

NB: Click here to see Craig Venter on the Colbert Show last month.

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DNA Testing for Adoptees

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted August 6, 2007 in DNA Testing, DNA and Genealogy, DNA in General

Adoptees often seek DNA testing because they want to learn more about their birth parents, ethnic background, or gene-related medical history. DNA tests also have other surprising roles in adoption.

adoptionFor example. a number of organizations serve families who’ve adopted children, usually girls, from China and other countries such as Korea. The a-China DNA Project has the lofty goal of not only creating a DNA database for matching adopted Chinese siblings, but also for anyone of Chinese ancestry. Co-directors Mary Coolbaugh-Murphy and Mary Ebejer clearly believe in the power of DNA.

In closing, we know nothing about our children’s medical histories. However, contained in the tubes of their DNA, is a wealth of information that can benefit both them and people of Chinese descent around the world. If the predominant registry were to allow medical, social, anthropological, and psychological researchers from within the Chinese adoption community access to the anonymous (de-identified) DNA, we could learn so much about our children. We could learn about their genetic genealogy—not who their specific parents were, but who their ancestors were. We could learn if they are predisposed to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. We could learn if those with attachment sensitivities have a genetic basis to their behavior, which combined with their early trauma of abandonment, led to their problems—and could start treatment with early detection. Not to learn from the wealth of information inherent in a DNA database would be so sad.

DNA tests will also play a role in the adoption of Guatemalan babies. The US government is now requiring two DNA tests for all adoptions. First, to match the birth mother with the child then a second to confirm the identity of the child when the adoptive parents are ready to leave Guatemala to return to the US. The new requirement is a response to child traffickers and baby snatching.

In another Central American country, children adopted from El Salvador in the 1980’s during their civil war are using DNA tests to find their lost families. As part of the Pro Busqueda association, families are giving blood samples to aid in DNA matching of missing children and parents. Approximately 800 samples are currently stored and almost 70 families have been reunited using DNA. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer featured Angela Fillingim’s search for her biological mother in El Salvador. Other countries where DNA has been used to reunite families include Vietnam, Rwanda, Chile, Argentina, and North and South Korea.

toby dawson Olympic skier Toby Dawson was adopted from South Korea as an orphan but was finally reunited with his biological family in Korea earlier this year. He had been adopted by an American couple at age 3 when he ended up in an orphange after becoming separated from his mother in a market in Busan, South Korea. During the search for his biological parents, dozens of men came forth claiming to be his father. Kim Jae-su provided the DNA match.

Do you have any adoption and DNA stories to share?

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Mapping Middle Eastern DNA

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted July 23, 2007 in DNA Around the World, DNA and Genealogy

As a Chinese-American, I haven’t found genetic genealogy to be all that intriguing. That’s mostly out of ignorance since I haven’t done much research into my personal family history let alone China’s long history and lineages. Genealogy DNA testing companies also tend to focus very little on East Asians with only occasional stories about Y-DNA testing for a relationship to Genghis Khan or Confucius.

middle eastPeople of Middle East descent may feel the same way but hopefully not for long. Eastern Biotech & Life Sciences in Dubai have signed an agreement to be part of the Genographic Project via Family Tree DNA. They plan to create a database for the Middle Eastern population. Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are offered at DNAancestry.ae although much of the information there is a duplicate from Family Tree DNA and not specific to Middle Eastern populations. For example, their case studies are of Donald Trump, Brat (sic) Pitt and Pamela Anderson which actually take you to a blank form at Ancestry.co.uk!

On a more serious note, I wonder if knowledge of genetic similarities and differences between these countries could influence their relationships with one another – for the better or for the worse.

NB: According to WorldAtlas.com, the Middle East includes these countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

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