Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Is DNA Left on Envelopes Fair Game for Testing?

Last fall, Gilad Japhet, the founder of a DNA-testing company, got up at an industry conference to talk about his grandmother Rosa’s love letters.

Japhet’s company, MyHeritage, sells cheek swabs to people interested in their family history. It now has 2.5 million people in its DNA database, making it the third largest behind 23andMe and AncestryDNA. But Japhet wasn’t satisfied with only testing the living; he wanted to test the dead. Which brings us to the love letters—or really, the envelopes they came in.

The envelopes were sealed by his grandmother, and the stamps on them presumably licked by her. “Maybe our ancestors did not realize it,” Japhet said, a smile growing on his face, “when they were licking those stamps and the envelope flaps, they were sealing their precious DNA for you forever.” Then he made the big announcement: MyHeritage would soon begin offering DNA testing on old stamps and envelopes.

He didn’t stop there. If you can test the letters of your grandmother, why not those of historical figures? Japhet is a prodigious collector of autographs, and he revealed that he possessed handwritten letters from Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. In an intriguing if provocative PR move, he promised that “their DNA is coming to MyHeritage very, very soon.”

In the past year, genealogists have been abuzz about the possibility of getting DNA out of old stamps and envelopes. In addition to MyHeritage, a British company called Living DNA began informally offering the service for $400 to $600 last year, and a small Australian start-up called Totheletter DNA, which specializes in DNA from envelopes and stamps, launched a similarly priced service in July. MyHeritage says its own service should debut later this year. (A spokesperson declined to comment on when Einstein and Churchill’s DNA profiles will be uploaded to the company’s site.)

Among genealogists, demand for this service has been pent up for years. “At every conference I do, every seminar I do, I always get questions about artifact DNA. I think there is enormous potential,” says Blaine Bettinger, a professional genealogist. Getting the DNA of an ancestor can be tremendously helpful for finding new relatives. For example, your great-great-grandmother passes about 6.25 percent of her DNA to you. But she may have plenty of other relatives who only share DNA from the 93.75 percent that you did not inherit. One way to genetically match those relatives is to test her directly.

Ask genealogists, and you will hear a story about a grandmother’s letter or a father’s tissue biopsy or a great-aunt’s hairbrush, full of DNA that could unlock a family mystery. While 23andMe and Ancestry require large vials of saliva for DNA analysis, which are hard to obtain without a person’s cooperation, artifacts are much easier to come by. But extracting DNA from these sources opens up so many new possibilities—some unsavory, some simply uncomfortable. Should you be able to test a parent who refused to play along by digging up an old letter? Or do a secret paternity test on your child, using a cup discarded by the man suspected of having an affair with your wife? Or trace anonymous letters? Or obtain the DNA of celebrities?

In Vallejo, California, police have also sent envelopes from the Zodiac Killer for DNA extraction, in hopes of applying the same genetic genealogy tools that caught the Golden State Killer suspect. (Investigators in the Golden State Killer case had the advantage of well-preserved DNA from a rape kit, though.) Criminal-forensics labs have long analyzed DNA from objects, but they rely on a technique that looks at only 20 sites, called short tandem repeats (STR). To find their suspect in the Golden State Killer case, investigators used a technique from commercial at-home DNA tests, called genotyping, which looks at hundreds of thousands of sites in the human genome. Genotyping yields far more details than STR, revealing distant family relationships as well as genetic variants that can affect a person’s health and appearance. That’s a lot of information, potentially hidden in an envelope.

For these reasons, the companies offering DNA services for envelopes are drawing a line: These tests are not for living people. The only reason, after all, to resort to getting a living person’s DNA from a letter is if the person is not cooperating with a cheek swab or vial of spit—in which case they probably are not consenting.

This means saying no to potential customers. Joscelyn McBain, the founder of Totheletter DNA, told me that several people have contacted her about testing anonymous poison-pen letters. She’s sympathetic, but she says, “It just opens up a big can of worms.” To avoid testing living people, Totheletter asks customers to explicitly state that the envelope comes from a dead relative. McBain is not against using DNA and genealogy to find violent criminals like the alleged Golden State Killer—she’s actually interested in working with police in Australia—but she’s uncomfortable with using it to track down just anyone.

To limit the possibility for abuse in this, MyHeritage does not plan to test items such as toothbrushes, dentures, and old clothing. Since envelopes are usually postmarked and have a sender’s name written on them, it’s easier to validate that the item is what the customer says it is and not some secretly obtained sample. MyHeritage told me it plans to update its terms and services to prohibit uploading DNA profiles of living people that have been obtained through stamps or envelopes. But DNA from dead people, including dead celebrities like Einstein and Churchill, will be allowed.

The ethics of testing a deceased person’s DNA are more ambiguous, says Bettinger. Dead people usually don’t have privacy rights. Dead celebrities, having been public figures, have even less of an expectation of privacy. But dead people still often have living descendants, who share some portion of their ancestors’ DNA and who do have privacy rights. What if Einstein’s living descendants aren’t thrilled about a company uploading his DNA, just so random people online can find out if they’re distantly related to a genius?

On the other hand, says Bettinger, we don’t ask all our living relatives and future unborn descendants for consent when we ourselves mail in a DNA test—even though it affects them all. The alleged Golden State Killer, for example, was identified through third and fourth cousins who took DNA tests. Right now, any one individual has relatively little control over his or her  own genetic privacy.

Living DNA’s terms of service would allow testing envelopes for the DNA only when the target person is deceased and the customer has obtained the envelope legally. Of course, these terms of service rely on the honesty of the customer. A lab technician reviews materials to make sure they are what customers claim they are, but cost might be the most practical deterrence. Living DNA’s co-founder, David Nicholson, brought up the example of paternity tests. They’re available in drugstores for around a hundred dollars, while Living DNA’s service costs $400 to $600. “It’s a very expensive way to do that,” says Nicholson.

The cost of testing envelopes for DNA is unlikely to come down soon. 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and MyHeritage are able to offer ordinary ancestry tests for less than $100 because they use standardized vials and swabs. That process is easy to automate with robots. In contrast, every envelope is different. A human hand needs to carefully cut out the envelope flap or stamp, dissolve the glue, and extract the DNA. Nicholson says different types of glue might require different extraction techniques. DNA also degrades over time, so the success rate of testing old letters hovers around 50-50.
So for now, the commercial viability of envelope DNA testing is still uncertain. “At the moment, we’re doing it as a token to help people,” Nicholson says. It’s not really making the company any money. He’s considered offering a two-tiered service, where customers pay a smaller free upfront and only pay for the full genetic analysis after it looks like it will work. McBain has been open about similar challenges for Totheletter. She’s currently refunding customers whose samples are not successful. “We have to improve our results if it’s something we can commercially sustain,” she says. The entrance of MyHeritage, a big player in the consumer DNA industry, will be an important test case.
Genealogists are, by disposition, people who enjoy thinking about ways of the past. It is not lost on them that we have stopped writing letters and licking stamps. “There’s kind of this golden period from the late 1800s to maybe the past decade or so,” Bettinger says. Then he adds, “Maybe DNA testing is picking up that slack.” In other words, now we have a generation of people who are voluntarily testing themselves and sharing their DNA—what more could you ask for?
To read more of this article hit here

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Who’s making money from your DNA?

If you’ve sent off your DNA to an ancestry or health-screening company, do you know how the data is being used – and should you worry?

This story is from Who’s monetising your DNA?, an episode of Business Daily on BBC World Service. It was presented by Manuela Saragosa and produced by Laurence Knight. To listen to more episodes of Business Daily, please click here. Adapted by Philippa Fogarty.

If you’ve ever sent off your DNA to an ancestry or health-screening company for analysis, chances are your DNA data will be shared with third parties for medical research or even for solving crime, unless you’ve specifically asked the company not to do so.

The point was brought home in late January when it emerged that genetic genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA was working with the FBI to test DNA samples provided by law enforcement to help identify perpetrators of violent crime. Another DNA testing company, 23andMe, has signed a $300m deal with pharmaceuticals giant GSK to help it develop new drugs.

But are customers aware that third parties may have access to their DNA data for medical research? And do these kinds of tie-ups bring benefits – or should we be concerned?

Opting in

23andMe is a California-based company that analyses customers’ DNA and provides them with reports on ancestry and health. It says it has more than five million customers, more than 80% of whom have agreed to participate in its research, creating a huge store of genetic data.

In a blog post when the deal with GSK was announced last year, CEO Anne Wojcicki said she believed combining 23andMe’s genetic research with GSK’s drug development expertise would accelerate the development of scientific breakthroughs.

So with this deal, has the company changed its focus to monetising its genetic database?

“I would really say not,” says Kathy Hibbs, 23andMe’s chief legal and regulatory officer. “The way we look at our business is as a virtuous circle. We have consumers who are interested and motivated around their own health – how our genetics might influence our risks for certain conditions.”

The concept, she says, is to make discoveries that give customers more information they can use to inform their health decisions.

She rejects the idea that customers don’t understand whether they are agreeing to share their data, pointing to a “very explicit” three-part consent document that asks whether customers want to consent to research, and whether they consent to this research being shared with third parties. The key thing, she says, is that their research relies on people answering survey questions. “Their genetic information, if they don’t provide the survey information… is really not interesting to us. So not only do they knowingly consent, they have to affirmatively participate in these studies.”

Hibbs says the partnership with GSK will allow a far wider pool of researchers to study the data they have. Her company can also work with academics and public institutions if there is no conflict of interest with GSK, she adds.

‘Greater good’

Of course, there are plenty of countries that are developing public DNA databases as opposed to the private ones owned by companies like 23andMe. In the UK it’s being done by Genomics England, established by the government’s Department of Health and Social Care.

It runs the 100,000 Genomes Project, which aims to sequence genomes from patients with a rare disease and their families, as well as patients with cancer. All the patients are with the NHS public health service and the focus is on improving treatment rather than developing profitable new drugs.

Mark Caulfield, chief scientist for Genomics England, says the project has multiple benefits, citing the example of a 10-year-old girl with severe recurrent chicken pox.

“We found a change in her DNA which altered her immune system. This allowed us to select the bone marrow transplant which has cured her of her condition,” he says. “This is not only a transformation for the individual but it’s also a huge saver of funds for the NHS, because she was recurrently being admitted and having intensive care.”

He says that genomics can help build up a much more detailed picture of a person’s life course – something which may help scientists begin to identify who is at risk of disease.

Everyone in the database joins under the basis of informed consent, involving written materials and a consultation with a healthcare professional, and the organisation does work with other nations and private companies, something Caulfield points out has benefits.

Where patients are suffering from very rare diseases, getting an answer may hinge on sharing data with other nations, he says. Interacting with private firms who are developing drugs, meanwhile, can help make a hugely expensive process cheaper. 

“Many of us possess the risk of an adverse reaction because of our genetic make-up. And because 80% of medicines fail in development, actually using the genome to try to get safer medicines first time could reduce the cost of those medicines when they come forward into the health system.”

He highlights the key role identifying the gene behind familial high cholesterol, a condition causing heart disease at an early age, played in developing the drug to treat it.

“[Drug company] Amgen estimate that the work in genomics shortened the development of that medicine and its entry to patient-benefiting trials by three years. If I could bring something live that would avoid death or harm to somebody much faster through this public-industry partnership, then I think that is a greater good for society.”

Why diversity is needed

It’s worth noting that the 100,000 Genomes Project has sequenced exactly that – 100,000 genomes. It’s a fraction of the information held by 23andMe’s database. The fact that private companies dominate DNA databases worries Kayte Spector-Bagdady, assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s medical school.

“There’s potential for data monopolies and also private industry acting in ways that might exclude public data banks,” she says. She cites the example of Myriad Genomics, which obtained a patent on two genes associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. That meant it could monopolise testing, something opponents argued stifled research and blocked development of cheaper tests.

In 2013, the US Supreme Court declared the patent invalid. But because they’d had a monopoly for so long, Myriad still had the best data set. Now, says Spector-Bagdady, third parties are working together to “compete with the gigantic Myriad data set”.

She says profit considerations can skew research. “If you think about these companies like 23andMe, their valuation isn’t based on the ability to sell $200 test kits; their valuation is based on their ability to collect and sell data. That data becomes one of their greatest business assets and that asset is protected as any other asset would be.”

Consent issues aside, her biggest worry is that the way the data is collected means segments of society are not represented.

“The kinds of people who can afford to buy these private diagnostic tests look similar in lot of ways – they’re often very well educated, they’re often Caucasian, they’re often wealthy,” she says. “So when we populate private data sets with those kind of people, even if we’re doing good research that makes excellent advances in medicine, the kinds of communities that those advances are going to be applicable to are the kinds of people that are in the data sets to begin with.”

She believes creating more diverse public databases accessible to researchers, like the All of Us research programme initiated by the Obama administration, would serve society better.

“The challenge is that they only have about 150,000 people so far and they have been doing it for years,” she says. Part of the problem is that public programmes have to meet stringent federal requirements around consent, making it costlier and more time-consuming to recruit participants.

23andMe says that although percentage-wise its customer base tends to be more European, on a pure numbers basis it has some of the largest cohorts of traditionally under-represented research populations including African-Americans, Latinos and others. It also participates, it says, in projects targeting gaps in the genetic records.

The direct-to-consumer genetic testing market is flourishing, KPMG noted in a report last year. That being the case, the debate around issues of privacy, consent, diversity and benefit can only deepen as more of us choose to find out our deepest biological secrets.

To read more of the article hit here

Thursday, May 23, 2019

What DNA ancestry tests can — and can’t — tell you

I took a DNA ancestry test. It didn’t tell me where my ancestors came from.

At-home DNA ancestry tests have become hugely popular in recent years. More than 26 million have taken one, and if the kits’ marketing is to be believed, the tests can help you learn where your DNA comes from — and even where your ancestors lived.

But the information that can be inferred from your DNA is actually much more limited than testing companies are letting on. And that has led consumers to misinterpret their results, which is having negative consequences.

Watch the video below to find out how DNA ancestry tests actually work. Then be sure to check out Verge Science’s report on how this treasure trove of genetic data could be used to track you down — even if you’ve never taken a DNA ancestry test.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

To watch the video hit here

Free all 12 live streamed presentations at 2019 Jamboree are available if you sign up for them

Thanks to the generous underwriting by Ancestry, all 12 live streamed presentations are once again free to all subscribers.
Can't watch it Live?
Watch at your convenience through July 31, 2019.
You must register online to view.

STREAMED SESSIONS (Note: Times listed are PDT)

Friday, May 31, 2019
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
FR010 Funeral Homes and Family History: They're Dying to Meet You
Daniel Earl
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
FR019 Strategies for Finding the Locality of Your Irish Ancestors
Donna M Moughty
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
FR028 Major Midwestern Databases and Indexes for Family History Research Paula Stuart-Warren, CG®, FMGS, FUGA

Saturday, June 1, 2019
8:30 AM - 9:30 AM
SA009 Genealogy Pit Stop: Research in 15 Minute Increments
Thomas MacEntee
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
SA018 Working More In-Depth with Mexican Civil Registration Records Colleen Greene, MLIS
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
SA027 Historical Maps: The World at Your Fingertips
Michael L Strauss, AG®
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
SA036 Afro-Latinx in the Old West
Janice Lovelace, PhD
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
SA045 Plain Folk – Researching Amish and Mennonite Families
Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, AG®, FOGS

Sunday, June 2, 2019
8:30 AM - 9:30 AM
SU009 Canadiana's Genealogical Treasures
Dave Obee
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
SU018 Online Library Catalogs: A Genealogist’s Best Kept Secret
D Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
SU027 Silent Voices: Telling the Stories of Your Female Immigrant Ancestors Lisa Alzo, MFA
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
SU036 Border—What Border? Our Ancestors Who Called Both Canada and the USA Home
Annette Burke Lyttle

Important Notes:
SCGS Membership not required to subscribe to Live Streaming - but always welcome! Why not become an SCGS member? Individual membership is only $40. Become a member NOW!
Syllabus materials are included for all the classes
The Genealogy Jamboree Live Streaming series is separate from the Genetic Genealogy Live Stream series and requires a separate subscription. Learn more here.
The streaming video sessions will not be shown on the SCGS website

The Fine Print
Access to Live Streaming sessions is provided for use by individuals only.
Sharing content with others is not permitted and conflicts with copyright provisions held by presenters and the SCGS.

Email registration@webcastandbeyond.com

Please come by and say hello since we will have a booth at the conference in the Exhibition hall on Friday May 31 thru June 2.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

2019 SCGS "Burbank Jamboree" and DNA Conference

For those who are able this May 30 to June 2 to attend the 2019 Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree and DNA Conference ,GSHA-SC will be represented in the exhibition hall.

Please come by and say hello!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Genealogy sites help birth parents find kids they put up for adoption. But not everyone wants to be found.

DeAnn Link is searching for her daughter. She’d be 23 years old now.

Link said she gave birth in a Chicago hospital in 1996 at age 18, and the baby was placed with an adoptive family.

She has searched for her on LinkedIn, Google and through websites that allow birth parents and adoptees to register with contact information. But years of searching has led to nothing.

“It’s kind of frustrating,” she said. “I know she’s out there, and I know I’ll find her soon. The more I try, the more I put myself out there, the more she’ll be able to see it.”

Up next to try? A genealogy website. Link and other birth parents have been turning to DNA and genealogy websites as a way to potentially find and connect with adopted sons and daughters.

Recently, Link opened an account on Ancestry.com, and she is waiting on the next steps to submit her DNA, which could potentially match others who have submitted to the site. Maybe, she hopes, she will find her that way.

“I'm excited,” she said. “I was so young when everything went on, and it’s been a missing piece in my heart since then.”

Genetic testing sites like Ancestry, 23AndMe and MyHeritage are expanding the options for biological parents seeking to find adoptees.

Birth parents’ search options include going through an adoption agency or turning to online searching and scouring social media. Some also use private investigators. But now, for example, on Facebook pages that help people find family members, many first suggest a genealogy website.

The ability to seek matches instantly is an enormous shift, adoption experts said.

“That is a huge, huge sort of change in the way that nobody ever anticipated,” said Nina Friedman, director of post adoption support at The Cradle, an adoption agency based in Evanston, Ill.

At Adopted.com, a website that has 850,000 members and helps adoptees and biological parents connect, founder Katharine Wall said, “Technology can really change things overnight.”

Last fall, the website, which already helps connect searchers with investigators and genetic researchers, began letting users upload their own DNA profiles. Adopted.com is working on partnerships with some genealogy websites in hopes of eventually being able to offer users a way to check matches across several sites.

Kathryn Holcomb-Kirby said she has been trying to establish contact with her son, who would now be 27, for years. He was adopted in 1991, when Holcomb-Kirby was 17, she said. She gave birth to him in Skokie, and he was placed with an adoptive family in Wisconsin, she said.

She is working with an agency attempting to connect her, and she added her information to Adopted.com.

Even armed with some information — the parents’ first names and the state they lived in — about her son’s adopted family, she still has been unable to find him. “It’s more than a lot of people have, but it’s still limited,” she said. She recently requested a kit from Ancestry.com.

Often, it is the adoptee who seeks out more information or a connection with a birth mother or father. But with ever-expanding search options like genealogy sites, said Chuck Johnson, president of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Council For Adoption, “it doesn’t surprise me that with the technology today and the tools that are available, that more and more birth moms may be reaching out that way.”

In Illinois, searchers can use the Health Department’s Illinois Adoption Registry and Medical Information Exchange, where people can register to authorize or prohibit the release of identifying information to others involved in an adoption. The Confidential Intermediary Service of Illinois, a program of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, is another resource for seeking family members.

Beginning the search

Birth parents or adoptees begin a search for many reasons, from establishing a relationship to finding out health history. Others might not know that seeking a reunion or more information is a possibility.

“A lot of birth parents don’t feel like they’re entitled to actually seek out their child,” Friedman said. “And so it seems like it should be the child’s decision.”

She said that, in some cases, both parties — a biological parent and an adopted child — might be open to connecting, but each thinks the other person should make the decision. “If everyone thinks the other person should be doing it, nobody does it.”

Of course, in some cases the person might not want to be found or contacted.

That’s how Chicagoan Linze Rice felt when her biological father reached out in 2018. Years earlier, her mother had told her that although she was her birth mother, the man she’d always known as her father had actually adopted her. Rice said she felt no need to establish a reunion with her birth father — “It wasn’t really a huge void in my life,” she said — but did seek out information on him through contact with a cousin years ago. She knew that he was aware of her, and vice versa.

For that reason, she said, it surprised her even more when he sent a Facebook message to her parents.

“I’ve never reached out, I’ve never done anything to do that, and he knows that I could if I wanted to,” Rice said. “I had a surprisingly negative reaction to it.”

She decided not to respond and, a year later, still has not.

How to reach out

Before attempting to establish contact, experts advise thinking through a few things. Consider what might happen and how you will feel. The person may or may not want a relationship; the person may or may not have the life you might have hoped.

Wall counsels patience, and she reminds people that they might simply need to give a potential relationship time.

“It’s super important to have a very gentle approach and then to back off and be patient,” she said. “It’s so common that people say they’re not interested in a reunion, and then they change their mind.”

Friedman advises thinking through possible outcomes, expectations and motivations. “You could find out a number of things that may not be what you were expecting,” she said. “The other person may no longer be living, which can be devastating. The other person may not be open to contact.”

Experts caution against simply showing up on the person’s doorstep.

And Friedman cautions against bringing an attitude of, “You’re my child, and I’m so excited to find you, and let’s become best friends.” Instead, consider the approach, “This is who I am. I think we might be a match, and would you be open to exploring that?”

Reaching out, Friedman reminds people, is just the first step.

“Just because you find the other person and you connect and they’re open, it is a brand-new relationship,” Friedman said. “You’re strangers. You have to think about how you build a new relationship.”

To read the article hit here

Friday, May 17, 2019

The oldest DNA in North America

The oldest DNA in North America: At-home genetic test traces Montana man's family history back 55 GENERATIONS to ancient humans that crossed the Bering Land Bridge 17,000 years ago

.CRI Genetics says one man holds the record for the oldest DNA sequence
.Alvin 'Willy' Crawford's DNA was traced back 55 generations and 17,000 years
.According to the company, the test was also 99 percent accurate
.Genetic testing has also helped to re-tailor our vision of human history

In a report from the Great Falls Tribune, Alvin 'Willy' Crawford's DNA was traced back 55 generations with 99 percent accuracy, making his lineage the longest traced by CRI Genetics.

According to one genetics firm, a recent client has taken the title for the oldest traceable DNA in the Americas.

A report from the Great Falls Tribune reveals Alvin 'Willy' Crawford's DNA was traced back 55 generations with a shocking 99 percent accuracy, making his lineage the longest ever traced by the ancestry testing company, CRI Genetics.

According to the report, the genetic testing traced Crawford's DNA back a whopping 17,000 years.

The length and accuracy of Crawford's lineage is so rare that the company told Crawford's family that it was 'like finding Big Foot.'

To read more of this article hit here

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Whom does your DNA belong to? Hint, it’s not just you.

Home DNA test kits are flying off the shelves allowing people to analyze their own genome and those of their relatives. But is that a good thing?

When you submit your DNA to a personal genomics company like Ancestry or 23andme, you’re not just uncovering secrets about yourself, but potentially about other people.

That’s what Dani Shapiro learned after she spat into a tube and sent it to Ancestry for testing.

“It really was very much in the spirit of a lark,” says the novelist and memoirist. “It was just this recreational feeling of, ‘Oh, maybe we’ll discover second cousins or third cousins.’”

What she found instead challenged her very sense of self.

As Ms. Shapiro describes in her bestselling memoir, “Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love,” published in January, the DNA test found that she was only half Ashkenazi Eastern European, not the 100% that she had always thought. And there was a name that she didn’t recognize, identified as a first cousin. The truth was unavoidable: The man who raised her was not her biological father.

To read more of the article hit here

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

PSA: AncestryDNA Kits Are on Sale

PSA: AncestryDNA Kits Are on Sale for Just $69 Right Now
Get it for 30% off while you can.

Read in Good Housekeeping: https://apple.news/APXbT0pqoRyS-wHrkOa-CpQ

Monday, May 13, 2019

Mitochondrial DNA Sequencing Reveals the True Origins of Cells

There are many more cell types than you might think. In your liver, for example, the cells in one section may be different than those in another. But researchers have only a general idea of how stem cells differentiate into broad categories (like “liver”) and divide to make new cells. Understanding each different cell type– and how it interacts with its neighbors over time – is one of the greatest challenges in biomedical research.

A new study led by HSCI researcher Vijay Sankaran of Boston Children’s Hospital and Aviv Regev of the Broad Institute has risen to the challenge. Published in Cell, the new method allows scientists to trace the steps of a cell’s developmental history and create accurate “cell family trees”. By pinning down a cell’s specific origin, it is now possible to gain a clear view on some very complex biology.

To read more of this article hit here

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Working with search engine

If you don’t know how all the search options work on a site, have you practiced using them for person you know is in the index? A good way to get better at using a search interface is to see how many ways you can find the same person using different search approaches:

with using partial spelling and a* to replace several letters
with no first name,
with no last name,
with no name at all,
using wildcards creatively,
using only a location,
using keywords,
It’s easier to see how other search options work when you use them to find someone you know is already in the database–then you can focus on learning how to use them creatively and improve your search skills by asking “how many ways can I find this person in the database?”

Then…when you feel better about your ability to use the search features of the database, look for those people whose presence in the database is not already known.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Republishing Obituaries: Is it Piracy?

This article appear on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. To read the article hit here

Who owns the copyrights of obituaries? A recent court case in Canada may have far-reaching implications for genealogists in many countries. While the recent court case applies only to Canada, similar copyright issues exist in many other countries.

Thomson v. Afterlife Network Inc., 2019 FC 545, is a (Canadian) Federal Court decision in which the Court considers the existence of copyright in obituaries used in an e-commerce context.

The case involves a class action lawsuit claiming that posted obituaries and photographs posted in local funeral home web sites were copied and republished by the plaintiff and other class members without the permission of the true copyright holders. The suit then claims that the defendant infringed the copyright and the moral rights of the class members.

Afterlife (the defendant) operated a website that contained over a million obituaries in Canada and on which Afterlife reproduced obituaries and photos from the websites of Canadian funeral homes and newspapers and sold, for its own profit, flowers and virtual candles and hosted advertising for third party businesses. The Terms of Service on Afterlife’s website asserted that Afterlife owned the copyright in the website contents. The lawsuit claims that Afterlife has no legal rights to the copyrights.

You can read the details in an article by attorney Martin P.J. Kratz in the Lexology.com web site at: http://bit.ly/2V7csyw.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

How Many DNA Tests Does One Family Need?

This article was first published in Ancestry,com blog by Juliana Szucs . To see the original blog hit here 

The short answer is, How many people are in your family? If you’ve already taken the AncestryDNA® test, you may think you’re done.  You could test other family members, but since you’re related, they will have the same results as you, right? Not exactly.

Both you and your biological family inherited your DNA from your ancestors, but like most inheritances, who actually ends up with what can get a little messy. It’s true, you share DNA with other members of your family, but each of you gets a unique mix and different amounts from various ancestors. So the closer you can get to a DNA source, and the more sources you can identify, the more you can learn about your family and grow your family tree.

You get half your DNA from Mom and half from Dad. One of the most powerful benefits of having their DNA tested is being able to assign your DNA matches to a specific branch of your family tree. Ancestry will now call out DNA matches as “Mom’s side” or “Dad’s side” for parents you’ve had tested. Also, getting them tested lets you dig into the half of their DNA that you didn’t get. Odds are they will have DNA matches that you don’t have. Imagine the possibilities!

If you’re lucky enough to still have living grandparents, having their DNA tested can pay even bigger dividends than testing your parents. Remember, not only does it allow you to assign matches to even more specific branches of your tree, but your grandparents’ DNA has mixed once since coming down to your parents and twice since coming down to you. So, while your DNA can give you high confidence matches 5–6 generations back, your grandparents’ DNA matches can connect 7–8 generations back from you with that same level of high confidence.

Unless you’re an identical twin, your siblings received a different mix of DNA from your parents than you did. While results can be similar between siblings, ethnicities can vary, and a sibling may also connect to DNA matches that you don’t. This may seem counter intuitive, but remember, DNA inheritance involves a great deal of randomness. Testing a sibling opens the possibility for you to discover new cousins and new insights into ethnicity and historical communities, especially if your parents aren’t available to test.

Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins
Your aunts and uncles have a significant link to you and can be a great proxy for, or supplement to, your parents’ and grandparents’ DNA. You will likely share similar matches, which can help determine which branch of your family tree a match belongs to. And like your parents, grandparents, and siblings, the matches you don’t share could lead you to new discoveries in your family tree. Plus, it’s a great way to get others in the family involved in your family research.

Your Spouse
You may have a lot of things in common with your spouse, but DNA matches are not usually one of them. So your DNA test won’t help trace your spouse’s family tree. Having your spouse tested can also be lots of fun. You can compare your ethnicity results, see who gets the most matches, and share your findings with the rest of your family. If you have children, testing both you and your spouse’s DNA can help paint the picture of the heritage you each passed down to them.

Your Children
While testing your children may not solve any genealogical mysteries for you, assuming you have already tested, it can inspire interest in their family story. A 2010 study from Emory University found that children who know stories about their ancestors had better coping skills and higher levels of emotional well-being.  And who knows, you may be inspiring the next generation to take up the genealogical torch.

Things to Consider
Test Older Relatives First. By testing the “oldest” DNA in the family tree, you get the strongest connection to the past. Consider this: a fourth cousin to you is a third cousin to your parent and a second cousin to your grandparent. Because the relationship is closer, you can go further back in time with more confidence by testing older relatives. And, sadly, our older family members are our most endangered. So it always makes sense to test the oldest living relatives in your family tree on each of your branches.

Pinpoint new cousins on your family tree. Think of your family tree. It starts with you, then immediately splits into two branches: your paternal and your maternal relatives. You got DNA from both branches of that tree—but your parents didn’t. By testing multiple people on both lines, you may find more distant cousins that point to a relationship to a particular grandparent, great-grandparent, etc. Using shared matches, when you identify the branch of the family a cousin is associated with, you can create custom, color-coded groups to remind you how you are related. Testing gets really exciting the further back you can go.

Find more cousins. Depending on who you test in your family, you could have some of the same DNA matches, which can give you clues about who the shared ancestor is for that match. But other family members may also have matches that you don’t, which could mean new discoveries in your family tree as well. Either way, it’s a win.

Have some fun. Getting other family members involved in your family history research is just downright fun. You can compare your ethnicity results to see who got what mix of ethnicities or who has more matches on which side of the family. DNA is a cool new technology that can get the rest of your family more interested in their ancestors. Trust us; we’ve seen it happen.

So, now it’s your turn. Get started and get testing.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Learning about dots on maps

When looking at maps, make certain that you spot the right dot. Map makers will sometimes squeeze, align or place names somewhere near the spot. Verify with other maps or go online with Google Earth or other sources. Initially you may think the wrong “dot” of the map was correct.  And while saying “don’t be hasty,” “take a second look,” and “don’t be afraid to ask someone else” are suggestions we here often–it doesn’t hurt to have the occasional reminder.

And make certain you have the right dot. Sometimes a few miles really does make a difference.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Ancestry.com Sued for ‘Misleading’ Customers About DNA Data

Genealogy information provider Ancestry.com has a “longstanding practice” of failing to get sufficient informed consent agreements from customers who submit medical and DNA information, a new lawsuit alleges.

Lori Collett sued the Utah-based company’s subsidiaries—Ancestry.com DNA LLC and Ancestry.com Inc.—for allegedly “misleading and deceiving patients in California and across the country about what Ancestry was actually doing with their DNA.”

Bloomberg news has a brief radio report about the lawsuit at http://bit.ly/2VAn7Gt.

“Who Do You Think You Are” Returning to NBC for Season 11

US version of the popular genealogy docu-series Who Do You Think You Are? returns to NBC with 13 new episodes

BIG NEWS! The US version of the popular UK series Who Do You Think You Are? is returning to NBC, it’s original home from 2010-2012! The announcement was made by Shed Media, producers of WDYTYA and picked up by several entertainment news outlets including The Hollywood Reporter.

Since 2013, Who Do You Think You Are? has been aired on the TLC cable network for a total of 51 episodes. Although an air date has not yet been announced, Shed Media along with executive producers Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky plan to deliver 13 new episodes to NBC. And as with past series broadcasts, Ancestry will once again partner with WDYTYA.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Dangers of Using GEDCOM

This article was first run on Genealogy's Star by James Tanner. We thought it was important to run again for our user. Please see original at here

GEDCOM was last updated back in 1999 now twenty years ago. However, the current version in common use dates from 1996. Essentially it was a program designed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for exchanging genealogical data between different genealogical software programs. Here is a description of the program from Wikipedia: GEDCOM:
A GEDCOM file is plain text (usually either ANSEL or ASCII) containing genealogical information about individuals, and metadata linking these records together. Most genealogy software supports importing from and exporting to GEDCOM format. However, some genealogy software programs incorporate the use of proprietary extensions to the format, which are not always recognized by other genealogy programs, such as the GEDCOM 5.5 EL (Extended Locations) specification.
Even back in the time when GEDCOM was commonly used to transfer genealogical data between two programs, the process produced an "error" file with information that could not be copied. Over time, the information that is not transferred has grown as programs implement features that are not supported by the old GEDCOM standard. I have discussed the use of GEDCOM or mentioned the problems associated with using GEDCOM to transfer genealogical data in at least 20 previous blog posts.

Let's suppose that you are using a program on your device that stores genealogical data. For whatever reason, you do not trust the "internet" or "cloud" to store your data so you eschew the use of any online programs such as the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, Ancestry.com, or MyHeritage.com. Let's further suppose that you have now entered a huge corpus of information in your program. For some reason, you now start to worry about what might happen to all your data if your computer crashes or your program is discontinued. You also decide that you should "share" all your work with your family. What do you do to share your information? How do you back up your data?

Let's further suppose that you contact your family and offer them copies of your data files. You are surprised to find out that none of them are using the program where all of your data is stored. In fact, none of them have even heard of the program. When you decided to buy all of them a copy of the program you find out that the program will not work on any of their devices. So, you decide to export all your data in a GEDCOM file which you share with all of your family members. None of your family members know what to do with the file.

This hypothetical example could go on but in the end, no matter how the example is written, the results are the same: the information on your computer is lost. Even if you were successful in having someone in your family accept the information in GEDCOM format, it is very likely that much of the value of the information would be lost. For example, GEDCOM does not parse sources. What this means that if you use a program that allows you to enter a source for your information, GEDCOM may lose the information or end up putting the source into one long line of text. The program creating a GEDCOM file and the program receiving the GEDCOM file have to match the way the data is coded by the GEDCOM standard. As the description states above, "However, some genealogy software programs incorporate the use of proprietary extensions to the format, which are not always recognized by other genealogy programs." This was always the case with using GEDCOM to transfer genealogical information. If that was true twenty years ago, it is even more of a problem today.

Unfortunately, the problem of transferring accurate data between programs is still a challenge today. There is still no common standard for transferring data from one program to another except for some residual support of using GEDCOM. If you don't mind losing a significant part of your data, GEDCOM is still in use and still being promoted as a "solution" for exchanging data. However, some significant progress is being made. For example, FamilySearch.org and MyHeritage.com have developed a synchronization program that will allow the exchange of all of the information of at least 8 generations of the data in either program. However, this process is presently limited to those who have FamilySearch Accounts and are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is also a limited way to exchange data between Ancetry.com and FamilySearch.org also limited to members of the Church. Perhaps these initial efforts will expand and allow other programs to share information. There are also two desktop programs that have the ability to exchange source information with online programs: RootsMagic.com and Ancestral Quest (ancquest.com).

If you are starting out with your genealogical research, you may wish to consider the ability of the program you choose to use based on the program's ability to transfer data to other programs.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Announcing our next General Meeting, Saturday, May 4, 2019

Please join us for our General Meeting, Saturday, May 4, 2019 from 10 am to 3 pm in Burbank at the SCGS library. Our speaker, Linda Serna, will deliver her presentation on her husband's roots. We will have our door prize raffle to earn extra revenue for the society and a no host pizza lunch for those in the attendance for $7.00.

Late Addition the GSHA SC General Meeting on Saturday, May 4, 2019:

Following Linda Serna's Presentation at 11 a.m. and lunch, there will be a Workshop on Nueva Vizcaya Research at 1:30 p.m. by Carlos Yturralde in the SCGS Library, Burbank.

If you have not pay for your renewal membership for the 2019 year, please note you will not receive an invitation to our next GoToMeeting to hear this speaker or our next speaker. Please help our organization by sending in your check directly to the mailing address or go to our website, the url address https://www.gsha-sc.org/membership.html
  and pay through our PayPal account online. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Genetic DNA Testing: All you Need to Know before Taking One

In recent years, DNA testing has become more affordable and hugely popular. Numerous companies now offer home testing, and it takes just a few minutes for you to complete the test and post the kit back. The test results come through very quickly, and they give you a great insight into your ancestry, your biology, and more.

DNA Testing
However, as DNA testing becomes more popular, more and more companies have begun offering the service. This means that when you start looking into it, you may find yourself overwhelmed with information and not know which company provides the best DNA testing in 2019. That is why comparison websites, such as Hot5.com, are helpful when choosing a service. They carry out extensive research using in-house experts to find the best possible DNA testing for you.
You will see that each DNA testing company offers something slightly different. However, most companies offer some basic services, and it is important to understand them.

What is DNA
DNA (or deoxyribonucleic acid) is found in all living organism. It contains information on how we grow, develop, reproduce, and function. Your genetic makeup in encoded in DNA so it will determine factors such as your hair colour. Half of a person’s DNA comes from their mother, and a half from their father and no two people have the same DNA (except for identical twins). However, 99.9% of all human DNA is identical; it is just 0.1% that makes you unique.
What the DNA Tests Tell You
The most basic and popular service is called Autosomal Testing, which is more commonly known as the family finder. This test looks at 22 pairs of chromosomes not involved in determining a person’s sex. The test is used to look for relatives, such as cousins or more distant relatives, and it can also give you information about your ethnic background, and common genetic traits such as inheritable diseases and eye colour.

Many services also offer mtDNA testing (mitochondrial DNA). This traces your mother’s lineage and are the DNA strands that are passed down from mother to child. The test allows you to trace your direct maternal line, and as these particular DNA strands are unlikely to change, it can be traced quite far back.

You will also find Y-DNA testing, which focuses on the Y chromosome. This is commonly known as the ‘male’ chromosome, and unsurprisingly the test traces your father’s lineage. However, only males are able to use a Y-DNA test directly, so if you are a woman, this is not a service you need to look for.

Choosing the Right DNA Test
When choosing a DNA test, you first need to consider what you hope to achieve. If you are looking for a general family history then the autosomal test is a perfect choice, it covers both sides and looks at your genetics as a whole. If you want to learn something more specific, then you will be interested in the mtDNA or Y-DNA tests. Many online services offer all three tests, but you don’t necessarily have to pay for them all. Be sure to look carefully at what each service is offering, and you are sure to find one that suits your needs.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

How big data for DNA puts you at risk — even if you’ve never taken a test

Even if you don’t spit in a tube, your relative might

The rise of direct-to-consumer DNA tests comes with a host of thorny problems, including how to interpret the data and major questions about genetic privacy. Even if you decide not to spit in a tube, if your relative does, your genetic privacy might already be compromised.

To understand how, Verge Science and Vox took a closer look at the hunt for the Golden State Killer, who was connected with at least 51 rapes and 12 murders in the 1970s and 1980s. Even though the killer left his DNA at multiple crime scenes, investigators couldn’t find him until they turned to a massive genealogical website called GEDmatch. Users can upload their genetic profiles to GEDmatch — and websites like it — to learn about their family trees and look for long-lost relatives.

Investigators discovered that they could also use GEDmatch to look for a killer. They uploaded a fake genetic profile using crime scene DNA and found matches, not of the killer himself, but of his relative. From there, they could hunt through the family tree to find a suspect who had been in the right place at the right time. This is called a long-range familial DNA search, and it raises all sorts of questions about ethics, consent, and just how far law enforcement can go in their pursuit of a killer.

In a search for answers, Vox’s Danush Parvaneh took a DNA test of his own, and Verge Science looked at what the Golden State Killer investigation means for the future of genetic privacy.

Read more of the article in The Verge: