Monday, July 6, 2020

In the 1918 Flu Pandemic, Not Wearing a Mask Was Illegal in Some Parts of America. What Changed?

Most of our ancestors wore medical masks every day in 1918 through 1920. I remember my father describing those days when he was a 10 to 12-year-old. My mother was still a toddler in 1918 to 1920 and did not remember the masks herself but she relayed to me a number of stories her older relatives had told later while she was growing up. Your ancestors undoubtedly wore masks as well, both in the U.S. and in most other countries. The 1918/1920 Spanish Flu pandemic killed millions worldwide and most people in most countries wore masks and took other precautions, such as what we now call “social distancing.”

The following is from a rather interesting article by Paul French in the CNN web site:

When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Asia, people across the region were quick to wear masks, with some places like Taiwan and the Philippines even making them mandatory in certain scenarios.

But in the West, mask adoption has been far slower, with England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, for example, going so far as to claim mask-wearing is unnecessary.

Yet it hasn’t always been the case that mask-wearing is an Asian proclivity.

It certainly wasn’t during the influenza pandemic of 1918, which lasted from January 1918 to December 1920, and infected one-third of the world’s population, or about 500 million people, leading to about 50 million deaths — about half a million of which were in the United States.

You can read the entire article, by hitting here

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Census Has New Method for Privacy but Researchers Want Proof

The Census Bureau claims to have improved its ability to provide accurate data without risking the privacy of its responses, but experts are concerned there isn’t time to test the method before the data is published. The tweaks to the new method are critical to an accurate population count, one that will affect legislative mapmaking and the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funds.

“Unfortunately, the tabulation, documentation and quality control processes required for public releases of data products are enormously time and labor intensive,” Michael Hawes, the Census Bureau’s senior adviser for data access and policy, said in a statement. “With the 2020 Census now underway, we are unable to support the release of another full demonstration product.”

You can read more in an article by Michael Macagnone in the Governing web site by hitting here

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Update on Hispanic Heritage Project

The Hispanic Heritage Project and the El Colegio de Michoacán are pleased to announce that they have begun cataloging the following collection: “Procesos del Santo Oficio de México, 1522-1820, Sección genealogía de los procesados.”

To carry out the project, a team of catalogers is being organized by El Colegio de Michoacán to develop a catalog of the collection. It is supervised by Doctora Clementina Campos, director of the Office of Diffusion Cultural and coordinated by Dr. Isabel Juárez, who will be responsible for developing the project. This collection, housed at the Archivo General de la Nación has been previously digitized by FamilySearch and is located on its website, FamilySearch.org. The catalog will greatly facilitate searching and accessing the documents which will be available on the panes.info website.

The final product will be entitled Genealogía de los Procesados” It will contain the names of the accused and their genealogies that were notated during the inquisition process.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

“Who Do You Think You Are?” has been Renewed for Another Season

NBC has released a list of television programs canceled or renewed for the 2020/2021 season. In the list, there is a one-line entry that lists:

Who Do You Think You Are? 11 (13 episodes) returning series which will debut (TBD)

You can find the entire list of NBC programs at: https://newslagoon.com/en/entertainment/cancelled-or-renewed-status-of-nbc-tv-shows/152227/.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mississippi woman's years-long search to find biological father

Amanda Holdiness enlisted the help of investigative genealogist and ABC News consultant Pam Slaton to try to find her dad through DNA databases. To watch the video, hit here

Saturday, June 27, 2020

One woman's incredible search for her biological parents

Three babies, three doorsteps: cracking a 40-year-old mystery

Janet Keall was abandoned on a B.C. hospital stoop in 1977. She’s been haunted by questions ever since: Who left her and why? This year, she found some astonishing answers.

To watch the video, hit here


WATCH PART 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lcZ4...

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Ancestry DNA update, I just found my biological father!

I've never met my biological father, tonight Ancestry DNA found him. I talk about how it came about, how I feel about it, my expectations, why I feel conflicted and what I hope will come from it. To watch the video, hit here

Monday, June 22, 2020

Sub-Clustering Your Shared Matches at AncestryDNA

To watch this video, hit here  This is a process for clustering shared matches into sub-groups at AncestryDNA. These sub-groups are often more helpful than large shared match groups, by Blaine Bettinger.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Best times to purchase a DNA Kit

Want to purchase DNA kits?

There are certain times in the year where the prices come down and become quite a bargain. Companies will advertised before these dates to get you to purchase their products. These dates are the following:

April 25 DNA Day

second Sunday in the month of May- Mother's Day

third Sunday in the month of June- Father's Day

Holiday Gift giving- Christmas, Hanukkah, and such

If you check Amazon or any other wholesaler they will provide free shipping if you purchase a set dollar amount or you belong to their preferred membership. Once in a while if one company decides to lower their cost, the others will go along to keep their market share. Always be in the lookout or program Google to search when the price it below a certain amount.

Friday, June 19, 2020


After 26 years... I found my biological dad through an ancestryDNA kit.  To watch the video, hit here

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

An Unexpected Discovery: Kristin’s 23andMe Story

Kristin’s unexpected discovery opened up a new chapter in her life. Discover your DNA Story at https://www.23andMe.com and Live in the Know. To watch the video, hit here

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Man stolen as a baby meets biological mother

An American man who was stolen as a newborn baby in Chile 41 years ago meets his biological mother for the first time in his native country. CNN's Rafael Romo has more. To watch the video, hit here

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Father and Son Meet After 48 Years Through MyHeritage DNA

John Cummings was adopted at birth, and was always curious about his biological family. When he contacted the California Department of Social Services to find out about his adoption, they gave him some paperwork, but the information it had was very basic and there were no names or contact details. After learning that he might have to go to the Supreme Court to get more details, he got discouraged and gave up.Then, his wife bought him a MyHeritage DNA kit for Christmas.

To watch the video, hit here

Monday, June 8, 2020

On her 18th birthday ...

She found her dad on her 18th birthday. Years later, she found another dad after a DNA test. Jackie Cato searched for her father on her 18th birthday. Years later, her search began again after her daughter gifted her an ancestry DNA test.
To watch the video, hit here

Friday, June 5, 2020

How A DNA Test Led One Woman To Discover Her Secret Family History

Wendy Spencer joins Megyn Kelly on Megyn Kelly TODAY with her husband and daughter to talk about how a DNA test led her to uncover a shocking secret about her father and her true biological family. To watch to video, hit here

Monday, June 1, 2020

They Grew Up Believing They Were Half Brothers From The Same Sperm Donor. A DNA Test Revealed The Truth.

Since he was born, Tylen has known he had a half brother on the other side of the country. In 2008, Tylen’s mother, Christy Coyle, had used the same sperm donor as the other mom, Lauran, and they found one another online. The kids were born weeks apart, met as infants, and played together. Their single mothers spoke weekly on the phone and raised them as half siblings so they would always have someone just like them whom they could turn to. For years, a large canvas photo print of Coyle holding the two boys hung on a wall in Lauran’s house.

“We had planned that when they turned 18 and got to meet the donor that they were going to do it together,” Coyle said. “It was just our life plan.”


With their children approaching 10, the two women paid for an AncestryDNA test to provide the boys with a piece of paper confirming their ties and breaking down their genetic history. One evening, while on the phone with Coyle, Lauran looked up the results.

“And then it was just dead silence,” Coyle said. “There was no noise at all. And she just said, ‘They’re not related.’”

Coyle, now 41, was given the wrong sperm sample. The discovery sent her into a spiral. She felt violated, having been inseminated by a strange man whom she did not choose. She felt foolish, having searched in vain for physical similarities between the two boys. But she also felt that she had failed as a mother, as if she had betrayed her son and robbed him of the life plan she had envisioned.

“It was a couple of months of just sitting there, being devastated for my son,” she told BuzzFeed News. “Lots of no sleeping or crying because you don’t know what to tell your son. You feel like you’ve been lying to them about where they came from.”

It would take months — and a DNA test from an unsuspecting middle-aged woman living far away in Texas — before the mystery would be solved.

Courtesy Lauran
Tylen (right) with Lauran's son (left) as toddlers.

In the multibillion-dollar sperm bank industry, stories of mix-ups have become increasingly common. While federal regulators require that samples be tested for communicable diseases such as HIV, there is little to no national regulation beyond that: No laws punishing sloppy record-keeping at the clinics, no laws mandating that the personal information provided by donors is verified, no laws ensuring that women are being inseminated with the exact samples they have selected. And there’s currently no major lobbying effort to change any of that.

Wendy Kramer — cofounder of the Donor Sibling Registry, a website that connects children who were conceived using sperm donors — said most people don’t know how little the industry is regulated. “I think for so many of us when we had to use a donor in order to have a child we all thought, Oh, it’s the medical industry. These are medical professionals, so there’s going to be the same ethics and morals and responsibilities and record-keeping,” she said. “What many of us have come to realize over the years is this isn’t the medical profession. These are sperm-sellers, and that’s very different, and their ethics and responsibilities are very different.”

The increasing ubiquity and availability of at-home DNA testing kits, genealogy websites, and social media has been a slow-building storm for the donor industry, gradually exposing more and more cases of samples or records being mishandled. Just as police departments are cracking decades-old cold cases using genetic testing, donor-conceived children are learning shocking information about themselves and their families.

The mistakes from clinics span the country and stretch back decades, taking a profound human toll not only on children such as Tylen but also on donor-conceived adults, shattering their understanding of themselves and their families — as well as the bonds they have painstakingly built.

“We obviously didn’t grow up with one another, and we obviously didn’t live close to one another, so that already makes it difficult to maintain a relationship,” said Sam Johnson, a 29-year-old New Yorker who unearthed shocking information about his donor and his supposed half siblings after taking a DNA test. “But then when you add the fact that we’re not even related, it’s like, what’s really holding it together?”

These stories from Coyle and Johnson touch on fundamentally human questions: What is family? And what is its purpose?

For most people, of course, family goes beyond simple blood bonds but involves social connections built over years of shared experiences. It’s also a central means by which we get to know ourselves and build our identity.

For donor-conceived children, discovering new relatives with similar lived experiences can mean they’re extending their family in both the genealogical and social sense. The half sibling could fill in gaps in their biological identity and build a relationship that fills in part of their social identity and self-awareness.

“It’s hard enough for these donor-conceived people to kind of jockey around the whole idea of identity: Who am I when I don’t know where half of me comes from?” Kramer said. “Connecting with others who also share that unknown half of yourself can be very important, can be profound and life-changing. Relationships are made, bonds are made, and friendships are made. Their family has expanded.

“Then to have the rug pulled out under you, to say those people are not actually your biological relative, is extremely upsetting.”

Johnson knew at an early age that his family was different. Born to two moms in the early 1990s, he grew up an only child in northern Manhattan. Liberal New York was something of a bubble, but kids were still kids. “I definitely got shit ... Every time somebody would say, ‘Oh, that’s gay,’ I would fucking correct that,” he said. “People would definitely make fun of the way that I was born, the fact that I was conceived through artificial insemination.”

He loved his moms, but there was an occasional nagging feeling — a sense of mourning, as he described it, for not knowing exactly where he had come from. The only clue Johnson had was the donor information card from the New York clinic, Repro Lab, that his birth mother, Nicole Johnson, had used to conceive him. According to the donor sheet, “Donor #19” was Italian, Catholic, and worked as a doctor. He had green eyes and dark brown hair. He was married and enjoyed soccer and antiques. He didn’t smoke or drink, and he had a spotless medical history. “Describes himself as,” read the sheet, “optimistic, exciting, and honest.”

As he grew older, Johnson internalized what little information the paper provided him. He tried picking up some Italian using Duolingo and even had a friend teach him some recipes, soon perfecting the simple Neapolitan dish spaghetti aglio e olio. Occasionally, he’d search online for doctors’ photos, wondering if he looked like any of the men in the results. In 2007, his googling led him to Kramer’s website, the Donor Sibling Registry.

Within a year, he had connected with a woman who had the same “Donor #19” card from Repro Lab. And then another. And another. And another still. He was overwhelmed.

One of the women, Genna Ellis, was the same age as Johnson; she had grown up in Brooklyn, also with two moms. When she and Johnson met at Manhattan’s Union Square, what could have been an awkward encounter quickly eased into an hours-long walk as they discussed their similar childhoods. “It was a powerful experience for both of us, considering that was the first time we thought we were communicating with someone we were blood-related to,” Ellis said.

For the next decade, Johnson reveled in these newfound connections: A social worker by trade, he helped Ellis with an addiction problem. He visited one half sister in California when he helped a friend move across the country. He helped a third through a bad breakup and let her sleep on his couch. He was there when she got her first tattoo. She even came to his wedding.

“I was always proud to be like, yeah, this is my sister — to be able to say that,” he said. “I liked the idea of it.”

The first crack came when one of the supposed half sisters took a 23andMe test and learned she had Baltic, not Italian, heritage. She later matched with a Slovakian man who confirmed he had been a donor at the New York clinic in his youth.

Johnson took a 23andMe test. Ellis took one too. None of them were related to each other. Their donors were all different.

“It definitely hurt to find out that these relationships — not to minimize their significance — but to find out that the foundations that they were built upon were false,” he said. “Over the course of 10 years, I spent time forming relationships with these people. Not that they weren’t still meaningful, but it’s like the foundation is, like, what the fuck?”


Hulton Archive / Getty Images
William Henry Pancoast (1835–1897), an American physician and surgeon.

Secrecy — and fraud — have been present since the very first recorded case of successful artificial insemination in the US when in 1884, a 41-year-old wealthy Philadelphia business merchant and his 31-year-old wife came to see one of the city’s most prominent physicians, William Pancoast. The doctor and his medical students inspected both and ultimately concluded the man’s semen contained no sperm. After months of treatment failed, Pancoast came up with a plan B when one of his students joked that “the only solution to this problem is to call in the hired man.”

Pancoast invited the woman to his clinic and knocked her unconscious with chloroform. Then, without her consent and with his students present, the doctor used “a hard rubber syringe” to inject “some fresh semen from the best-looking member of the class” into her uterus before plugging her cervix with gauze. The students and Pancoast made a pledge of “absolute secrecy.”

She became pregnant, and Pancoast eventually felt guilty enough to tell her husband. He turned out to be “delighted with the idea” but asked that his wife not be informed. She later gave birth to a son. The insemination was only revealed 25 years later when one of the students, Addison Davis Hard, published a piece in a medical journal recounting the procedure. By all accounts, the woman was never told.

In the 1950s, scientific breakthroughs came with the freezing of sperm — and the early pioneers immediately envisaged grand commercial potential. One of the first researchers in the field, Raymond Bunge, predicted in a letter to his mother, “It won’t be long before my icicles will be in the deep freeze section” of supermarkets. But the research remained controversial; a 1954 headline about three babies born through Bunge’s method of freezing and insemination declared, “Fatherhood After Death Has Now Been Proved Possible.” Fear of so-called test tube babies abounded.

The first sperm banks didn’t arrive until the 1970s, mainly as a place for men to deposit and store their own samples for later use, say, if they were going through cancer treatment. Fertility doctors were still mostly using fresh sperm samples — not frozen ones — to inseminate women. When the AIDS crisis began and several women contracted HIV from fresh donations, medical preference shifted for the first time to using frozen samples for the procedure. The only real regulation implemented involved screening the samples for STDs. “But the list of diseases that are tested are relatively short,” said Naomi R. Cahn, law professor at George Washington University and author of Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal Regulation. “And for all we know the same donor that could be rejected at one bank is going to another bank and trying again until that donor succeeds.”

There are no records of how many sperm donations are made every year in the US, nor of how many children are conceived, but it is frequently said to be between 30,000 to 60,000 births per year. Kramer with the DSR argues that number is woefully out of date.

Still, the scandals tend to find the media spotlight. There was the man whose samples were used to produce more than 150 children, the many parents who end up unintentionally having children of different races (in one instance because a clinic was said to have confused “Donor 380” with “Donor 330”), the woman whose dead husband’s samples were misplaced and allegedly used to impregnate other women, or the Georgia clinic that allegedly marketed a donor to hopeful parents as a neuroscience genius studying a PhD in engineering but who was in reality an ex-con who had never attended college and had a history of psychiatric hospitalization. His sample has been used to conceive at least 36 children.

Many of these mistakes would not have come to light had it not been for the arrival of the DNA genealogy market — an industry estimated to be valued at over $3 billion in the US alone. Even if donors had requested decades ago to remain private, genealogy websites and social media have made that largely impossible. A 2018 survey of almost 500 donor-conceived people conducted by Kramer’s website found that almost a quarter of them had used DNA testing to track down their donor.

As more donor-conceived children find their biological parents and half siblings, new and extended family units are forming. One 2016 study of 419 donor-conceived children found more than a third of them get together once a year with the half siblings they’ve discovered, and a fifth of them meet up together several times a year. Some 42% of them said they considered their half sibling to be part of their immediate nuclear family.

Courtesy Christy Coyle
Tylen as an infant.

Tylen had been Christy Coyle’s miracle. In 2008, she was single and working in the records department of a police department in Chicago's suburbs when she was told she needed surgery to treat cervical cancer. If she wanted to ever have children like she had always dreamed, her doctor said, she needed to move quickly. She got to work.

Within three days, she had selected a sperm bank that would mail her a sample, NW Cryobank in Washington state, and begun printing out information sheets about possible donors, organizing them on the floor in stacks. She made lists of her preferred qualities — blue eyes, blonde or brown hair, athletic, good eyesight, and above all healthy — and circled donors who met her criteria.

Some nine months later, she was holding her son after he was delivered via C-section. “He was just beautiful,” she recalled through tears. “It was like every dream that I had was in my hands, and I didn’t think that was going to happen.”

Using a forum on the sperm bank’s website, Coyle connected with Lauran, who was in South Carolina and had selected the same donor (Lauran asked that she be identified only by her first name and that her son not be named to protect their privacy). She, too, was a single woman now expecting a boy. “I always thought that I would have a child in a marriage where I have somebody to share it with,” said Coyle. “And it was like she was somebody who, even though we’re just friends, she was able to understand what I was going through at the exact same time, and that was huge. It got me through a lot.”

The connection deepened once the boys were born. “Once they were here, we could see what they looked like and how big they were,” said Lauran, now 44. “We were constantly comparing: ‘What size clothes is he in? Is he crawling yet?’ We went back and forth like that for years.”

When the boys were almost 2, the families met. The two women booked adjoining hotel rooms in Atlanta and watched as the kids played together in parks and water fountains and fed each other fruit. Soon enough, the door between the two rooms remained open and the boys ran back and forth freely.

Courtesy Christy Coyle
Coyle and Lauran's children playing together in the Atlanta hotel room.

Despite living far apart, the families remained exceptionally close. Lauran and Coyle even decided to use another matching donor for their second children to further connect their families.

But when Lauran logged on to AncestryDNA during the phone call with Coyle one evening in 2018, they finally discovered the truth. A subsequent DNA test performed by California Cryobank — which purchased NW Cryobank’s assets in 2016 from another company, Cryo — confirmed that only Lauran had been impregnated with the sample both women had requested. Coyle felt like all the planning she’d done years ago, all her best intentions, had been for naught.

“I thought I was doing what was best. I picked somebody who he would get to know when he turned 18. I had a piece of paper telling me what he looked like. I had all the information, and suddenly you find out none of that was true. You don’t even know who you got,” she said. “It’s a really hard thing to process. And you have to go back and really reevaluate if you made the right decision. I question myself a lot. It made me feel horrible.”

There was grief, too. The vision the women had for their sons’ futures — a half brother to call their own, a donor whom the boys could meet together when they turned 18 — had disappeared. “We thought, Well, if something were to happen, if the donor decided he didn’t want contact, or he turned out to be a jerk, [my son] and Ty would have each other. No matter what, they’d have each other,” said Lauran. “And it just completely took that away from us.”

Sitting on their couch in 2011 in California, Bryce Branzell and his new fiancé, Ariel, were watching a TV show when one of the characters went to a sperm bank. The show brought up an old memory for Branzell, then 23, about the time he’d almost donated to a clinic. When he told Ariel, they laughed about it. “I was like, good thing you didn’t!” she told BuzzFeed News. “We joked about it like, good thing you didn’t and you don’t have 10 kids out there!”

In 2008, Branzell had returned from basic training with the Army Reserves in Montana. Money was tight. As he scanned the classifieds for jobs he saw an ad promising $500 for every sperm donation. It was easy money. He filled out an application detailing information about his physical condition, health, and education. Within a few weeks, he was called in to provide a sample so the clinic could test his fertility and determine if he could donate.

That’s when he started having doubts. He liked the idea of getting his fertility tested, but he still wasn’t sure if he was comfortable with donating for real. When he turned up at the clinic for the awkward experience of masturbating into a cup, the nagging doubts were suddenly alarm bells.

“At the time, I was thinking prior to this, Yeah, it’s a good idea. I like the fact that I can help a family have a child,” he said. “But then I actually got in there, and I’m thinking about the long-term things that could potentially come from this and the fact that I want to have my own kids and how awkward it would be to say, ‘Hey, boys, girls, guess what? You’ve got an older sibling that you never knew about.’”

Branzell handed his test sample to the male technician and then apologized. He was backing out. He said he was assured his sample would be disposed of and he had nothing to worry about.

A decade passed. Branzell deployed to Afghanistan twice, first with the Army and then the Marines. He met Ariel. They married and moved to Texas, where he became a police officer in Round Rock. Ariel began flipping houses. Together, they had two boys: Conrad, 5, and Asher, 2.

Courtesy Branzell Family
Bryce Branzell and his wife, Ariel.

Then in January 2019, Branzell received a text message from his mother. She had been building a family tree and was given an AncestryDNA kit for her birthday. Now, a woman in Illinois had sent a message seeking medical information about her own son, who was conceived using a donor linked to Branzell’s mom. Had he ever made a donation before?

“It was one of those moments where I’m like, there has to be some sort of mistake here. There’s no way something could have happened,” said Branzell. “And then all of a sudden the thought popped in my mind that this did happen; I did provide a test sample to the company. Could that have been it?”

Branzell began pacing the room as Ariel went to the woman’s Facebook account and began scrolling. She saw pictures of the woman’s son. She was shocked. He had the same chin and ears as her husband. She found photos of the boy as a baby. He looked just like their own son.

Branzell couldn’t help but agree: “She pulled up a picture of Tylen,” he said, “and I thought, Yep, he looks just like me as a kid.”

A DNA test would later confirm it: Branzell was Tylen Coyle’s father.

The first phone call between Branzell and Tylen was full of awkward fits and starts. “Hi, I’m Bryce,” he recalled saying to his son months later. “Yeah, I’m your dad? I guess? Maybe?”

“You could tell he was nervous about it. He wasn’t as talkative, according to Christy, as he usually is,” Branzell said. “It was kind of awkward to begin with. Just, how do we handle this relationship now?”

For both Branzell and Coyle, there is no guidebook for families suddenly joined together — or, in the case of Sam Johnson and Genna Ellis, torn apart — as a result of errors in the donor industry. Their relationship — their understanding of what their family is — is whatever they and their children want it to be.

How Branzell’s sperm sample ended up being used to conceive Coyle’s son is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. He is suing California Cryobank and Cryo for negligence, fraud, and infliction of emotional distress, among other things. (Reached for comment, lawyers for California Cryobank referred BuzzFeed News to their motion they filed on May 13 to dismiss the case. Cryo also filed its own motion to dismiss. Both companies argue they did not inherit NW Cryobank’s liabilities when they purchased its stock and are not responsible for any wrongdoing.)

The Branzells had decided to contact Coyle the day after they learned of her request. She’d merely been asking for medical information about her son’s donor, and they reasoned that if they were in her situation they would want the same. (Branzell has a history of blood clots, and the couple test their boys routinely.)

When the message arrived, Coyle felt like she could breathe again for the first time in months. “It was a relief that — oh my gosh, I finally know that at least there is a person and he’s a real person that gave that donation,” she said. “I know it sounds dumb, but I was finally able to put a face with my son’s other genetic half.”

Courtest Christy Coyle
From left: Coyle and Tylen.

This hunt for medical information is also the driving force for Johnson in wanting answers about his donor. He’s a father himself now; he worries for his son, Phoenix, who was born last year with gastroesophageal reflux disease, despite it not running in Johnson’s nor his wife’s known family. What else could be lurking? “He may have another rare disease that we could get tested,” said Johnson, “but I have no idea what the fucking medical history is.”

Johnson knows that family is about more than DNA. He has good friends he considers to be Phoenix’s uncles. And the relationships he built with the women he thought were his sisters still mean something to him; he’s just not sure what.

“I spent most of my life always wondering what the other side of me was,” he said. “You sort of start to piece together an identity based on this collective understanding of you guys having the same sort of situation and we’re like, oh, we’re related. We can form our own weird sober family thing! And then as soon as you start to do that and it’s taken away, it makes it feel like not necessarily that your time has been wasted but...yeah, it also does.”

“It definitely does feel like a loss,” he said. “It feels weird now if I were to contact them and try to talk to them, there’s this voice in my head that’s like, why? Not that they’re no longer important to me. I still care about them. Feelings like that don’t go away, but I envision this cruel audience in my head being like, You’re being weird reaching out to these people. They’re not even related to you.”

In 2018, after he learned he was not related to his supposed half siblings, he wrote to Repro Lab, but the company said it no longer had the appropriate records on file. “We understand how you feel,” a company representative wrote back to him in an email provided to BuzzFeed News. “There is a lot of confusion from the findings you described and we understand the emotions it has surfaced.”

The reply infuriated Johnson. “Have you been through this exact same experience?” he told BuzzFeed News of their response. “Then don’t fucking tell me you understand. I’m pissed.”

Awilda Grillo, director of Repro Lab, told BuzzFeed News she could not say definitively what occurred in Johnson’s case as she started working at the clinic after his mother ordered the sample in 1990. “I don’t know if it was an error in record-keeping,” she said. “We’re talking about 28 or 29 years ago. ‘Donor #19’ was, I think, probably one of the first donors of the Repro Lab, and back then things were different.”

She also suggested that the physicians who inseminated the different women may have made errors. “You can’t say because you have a piece of paper that you were inseminated with that donor. The only thing that could confirm that is the record of the procedure,” Grillo said. “I don’t want to point fingers and say ‘they’re guilty [or] we’re guilty.’ Who knows? Who knows who’s guilty? But I’m saying there’s so many possibilities.”

The New York Times reported last year — in a story Grillo said was “misleading” — that the New York State Health Department had found poor record-keeping at the clinic. The investigation was prompted when a woman discovered her 21-year-old daughter had been conceived using a sample from Repro Lab she had not originally selected.

Grillo said Sam’s story was “unfortunate” and “upsetting,” but she had no answers for him. “There’s no clarity,” she said. “There’s a lot of unknowns, unfortunately.”

In three states — California, Indiana, and Texas — so-called fertility fraud laws now make it a crime for a doctor to knowingly inseminate a patient with a donor whom they have not selected and given consent. These laws mainly came in response to doctors who used their own samples to impregnate unknowing women. (One Indiana doctor parented more than 60 biological children through this fraud.) But courts have been loath to find that families have suffered as a result of an accident or negligence as long as the child is healthy. The Utah Supreme Court called this “the supposition that the road not taken would have led to a better result” and described it “a common human fallacy.”

This was the judgment Coyle said she feared receiving in sharing her story with BuzzFeed News. “It seems like the moms in these kinds of stories usually get responses like, ‘You should be happy that you just have a healthy kid,’” she said. “But they don’t understand the emotional strain that it puts on you, and I think that they really need to change regulations and be held responsible for what they did.”

Lauran, too, is sympathetic to her friend’s plight. “I’ve read stories of other moms. The judge kind of says, ‘You’ve got a healthy kid. What do you care?’ Well, because this is a person, and I’ve been telling him one thing for 10 years and now I’ve been lying unknowingly,” she said. “He’s a person. He’s not a product.”

Months after the Branzells reached out to Coyle, the couple’s attorneys arranged for a meeting in Los Angeles. Ariel arrived first and had the awkward experience of meeting a total stranger who had given birth to her husband’s child years before she had. “It’s just the weirdest,” she said. “You’re instantly connected, but you’ve never met them. You don’t know any of their history, but you have this really strong connection.”

It was there that Coyle pulled out her phone to FaceTime her son so he could speak to his father for the first time. She had waited until it was confirmed that Branzell was his donor before telling him about the mix-up. For Coyle, sharing the painful news that Tylen was not related to Lauran’s son was tempered somewhat by his excitement at knowing at last who his father is. He now peppers his mother with questions about Branzell’s work as a police officer and time in the military — cool to almost any 10-year-old — and wants to know if he, too, liked science when he was a kid.

Branzell, though, is taking it slow — for now, at least. He and Ariel haven’t told their sons yet about their new half brother. He also doesn’t know how many other children he may have out there, or how many times his supposedly discarded sample may have been used. He wonders what might happen if someone else turns up at his door at age 18 asking to be part of the family.

Still, he envisages a future relationship with Tylen one day. “I know that he wants to have a relationship with his father, and it wouldn’t be fair for me to say I don’t want that,” he said. “He’s a kid, and I want to give him the things that he wants because he didn’t get this choice. None of us did.”

In South Carolina, Lauran also had to sit her son down and break the news about Tylen, but she isn’t sure he really understands or has emotionally processed what happened. “I don’t know that he feels the full brunt of it just yet,” she said.

But, she told him, Coyle and her boys are still family even if he is no longer related by blood to them. Ten years of bonds don’t vanish overnight.

In her home, she still has on the wall the canvas photo print of Coyle and the kids, taken on that Atlanta trip in the hotel pool. Tylen wears a life vest, and Lauran’s son has floaties on as he reaches up to the camera for his mom. Coyle is beaming as she cradles them both.

“It’s just a good memory,” said Lauran. “I still think of it as when my son met his half brother, even though I know biologically it’s not true. That’s how I still like to think of it.”

To read the full article at BuzzFeed, hit here

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mixed-race Man takes DNA test-See results

A mixed-race man gets HUGE surprise with DNA ancestry test. His whole life has been based on an incorrect myth. See how the test gives him answers.
To watch the video, hit here

Monday, May 25, 2020

Using DNA to solve adoption cases

The adoption community in the US have developed some amazing tools to help adoptees use DNA to reconnect with their birth families. Maurice will be looking at this methodology and how it can be applied to adoptees as well as ordinary family tree research to help break down brick walls. Both autosomal and Y-DNA will be covered and Maurice will present a real life example of how to use the methodology in practice. This also works if one of your parents or grandparents was adopted.

Dr Maurice Gleeson, MB - Maurice is a psychiatrist, a pharmaceutical physician, & a genetic genealogist. He did his first DNA test in 2008 and since then has used DNA to good effect in his own family tree research, finding relatives in Australia whose ancestors had left Ireland in 1886, and tracing one line of his family back to the 1600's in Limerick. He is now Project Administrator for the Spearin, Farrell, and Gleason Surname Projects and runs several special interest projects, including the iCARA project, which aims to help people with Caribbean ancestry and Irish surnames find their ancestral homelands and even distant cousins living today. Maurice organises Genetic Genealogy Ireland and speaks about DNA and genealogy at international and national meetings.

This lecture was presented at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2015 (Thurs 16th to Sat 18th April 2015, Birmingham, UK). Please note that these videos are copyrighted to the presenter and should only be used for personal study. They are not to be used for any other purpose without the presenters express permission. Also, please note that because this is a rapidly advancing field, the content may quickly become outdated.

To watch the video, hit here

Friday, May 22, 2020

My Family Secrets Revealed on Ancestry

Barbara and her family want to know more about the African roots they've discovered in their family history, specifically where in their family tree their African DNA first appeared. Will AncestryDNA and family history research be able to help Barbara and her family?

To watch the video, hit here

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Borderlands of Southern Colorado Online Talks

Many participants in the Borderlands of Southern Colorado Online Lecture Series have requested recorded versions of their talks. They are happy to share that the recordings are being added to their YouTube channel if you missed them.  To watch the past videos on YouTube, hit the link

Saturday, May 16, 2020

DNA Test, found my dad!

To watch the video, hit here

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

How to Interview Your Dad, and Why You Should Do It Now

To read the article in full, hit here

Shortly after I had my dad on my podcast, I started receiving messages from listeners who decided to interview their own dads. Here’s one of them:

"I just listened to your podcast with your dad and became motivated enough to interview both [parents] individually. Wow. Afterward, I felt such a weight lifted from my chest! They told me old stories I've heard a hundred times before as well as tokens about them I'd never known. We connected and opened up to each other in ways we never had before. It was amazing. These recordings have become my most valuable possessions. If anything happens to my parents during these uncertain times, I know I would regret not having those interviews."

In this post, I'm going to offer interview techniques for those of you who want to play journalist and conduct an interview with Pops — especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when most people have extra time on their hands and are connecting with family via Zoom. Make no mistake, this interview will require bravery. It forces you to face the white skull of death and to recognize that your dad isn't going to be around forever—and to grapple with the notion that long after he's gone, the recording will remain. Unlike edited video interviews, which present humans in filtered soundbites, long-form audio reveals their contradictions, verbal tics, and run-on sentences—all the stuff that makes us who we are.

Often during an interview, a theme will emerge, and you should allow yourself to just let that happen. As my dad told stories from various periods of his life, it became clear that many of his decisions were tied to his belief that if he approached situations with generosity, the benefits will come back to him in tertiary ways. When you do it right, an interview can be a gift to your subject; it allows them to see the story of their life more clearly. So just remember that every dad has a great story. You just need to ask yours the right questions to unearth it.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Swine Flu Pandemic | Deadly plague of 1918

Historical documentary about 1918 Swine Flu or Spanish Flu and the role of World War I in spreading the disease among troops making it into a worldwide plague of devastating proportions. The video covers where it began, how and where it spread, the symptoms, how it affected America and whether it could happen again. to watch the video, hit here

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Tayrone's Ancestry Reveals More Than Expected

Tayrone was born in Brazil, but has always suspected that he might be of Portuguese descent. He's come to My Family Secrets Revealed hoping an AncestryDNA test might be able to help, but his ethnicity estimate is about to reveal more about his origins that he ever expected.

To watch the video, hit here

Thursday, April 30, 2020

'Baby Adam' Found In Dumpster Gets To Meet Biological Father 25 Years Later

A local man has waited 25 years to meet his son. Sunday was the day they met. Joy Benedict reports. To watch the video, hit here

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Forgotten Plague

By the dawn of the 19th century, tuberculosis had killed one in seven of all people that had ever lived. Doctors believed it was hereditary, but had begun to observe that fresh air and outdoor living could sometimes change the course of the illness. Physician and TB patient Edward Trudeau was convinced the clean mountain air was like medicine for the lungs.

To watch the video, hit here

Monday, April 27, 2020

Amid the pandemic, a family learns their neighbors are their long-lost relatives

When Kjetil Njoten and his wife, Zoe Leigh-Njoten, along with their son, moved from London to Los Angeles a few years ago for Kjetil’s job at a TV network, they spent their first year trying to find the perfect neighborhood to put down roots. Last summer, they bought a house in La Crescenta, a community 15 miles outside of L.A. It would take them months, and a pandemic, to discover that family roots had already been planted by long-lost relatives living four doors down.

The Njotens had met some neighbors in passing, but it wasn’t until California’s coronavirus stay-at-home order in March that the Njotens had a chance to really get to know the people who lived near them. During a “social distancing happy hour” outside on their street in early April, the Njotens struck up a conversation with Erik and Jen Strom, who live four houses away.

Because Kjetil, 45, is originally from Norway and Erik, 38, has Norwegian ancestry, they started discussing Norwegian heritage. Jen, 37, said she had casually looked into her husband’s family history in the past but stopped when she was unable to locate Newton Island, where her husband’s Norwegian family was supposedly from.

Kjetil and Zoe joked that it could be Njoten Island, the tiny speck of an island northwest of Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city. Kjetil grew up in Njoten, and it’s from there that his family derived its surname. The island, Kjetil said, is three miles long and one mile wide and has a population of about 30 people.

They said it is often pronounced as Newton in English. But it is spelled “Njøten” in Norwegian and pronounced nyuh-ten.

“When [Jen] said ‘Newton,’ I thought, ooh, maybe!” said Zoe, 46. “It would be a ridiculous coincidence. Ridiculous. But maybe it’s Njoten!”

That night, Kjetil emailed his mother in Norway, asking her to do some sleuthing. She looked at her own family records, and by the time Kjetil woke up the next morning, she had replied. Not only was Erik’s family from the same island, but the two men shared the same great-great-grandfather. In fact, the home that Kjetil grew up in once belonged to that great-great-grandfather, Jacob Njoten.

This was too momentous to share over text. The Njotens asked the Stroms to walk over to their house, and while standing at a safe distance under the Njotens’ covered porch, Kjetil said: “Hey, good news! You are from the island, but not only that, we are related!”

The four of them stood there for a moment. Then there were cries of disbelief and tears.

“We were ecstatic!” Jen said.

“None of us can believe it,” Zoe said.

They resisted the urge to run over and hug each other.

Having made the discovery during a pandemic is a double-edged sword, Erik said.

“It’s given us an exciting thing during this difficult time,” Erik said. “But having it happen during this time also means we can’t do what we would like to. We can’t hug or have dinner together or go in each other’s homes.”

But, as Jen pointed out, maybe it took something like this life-altering event to bring them together.

“We wonder how long it would have been [for us to make this connection] if we didn’t have this reason to slow down from our regular life,” she said.

The discovery would have been amazing at any time, said Kjetil, but to uncover it during the lockdown was “such a bright light in what is a pretty uncertain and worrying time.”

The best part for both families is what this means for the youngest generation — their children. Monty Njoten, 10, and Emma Strom, 4, will grow up as cousins living just 100 yards apart.

As European expats, the Njotens have missed having family close by, and of all the neighborhoods and houses they could have picked in the Los Angeles area, Zoe said: “We end up living on a street next to these people originally from this tiny island [in Norway]. It’s crazy! It’s beautiful.”

As they wait for coronavirus isolation to end, the Njotens and Stroms chat through their new family WhatsApp thread, swapping recipes, photos and family stories. The Njotens showed the Stroms a framed aerial photograph of the idyllic island, which includes the farmhouse where their great-great-grandfather — and 100 years later, Kjetil — lived.

This discovery prompted Erik to ask his mother, who also lives in La Crescenta, more about their family. He got some genealogy documents from her, and she showed him a family history book that commemorated a large reunion on Njoten Island in the 1990s that some of Erik’s relatives attended. Among the scanned photographs is a group picture that includes a young Kjetil.

“That blew our minds a bit,” Kjetil said.

The spiral-bound family history book also holds the lyrics to a “welcome song” from the July 1996 reunion, all about their great-great-grandfather Jacob’s farm and family on Njoten Island. A verse mentions that Erik’s great-grandfather Andreas “bid farewell and sailed west for U.S.A.” in 1896.

That’s where the family history splits between continents. No one could have predicted there’d be another reunion in 2020 in an American neighborhood more than 5,000 miles from that farmhouse in Norway.

The Njotens and Stroms are hopeful that a group trip to Njoten Island will be possible sometime soon, but in the meantime, they’re busy making plans to celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day, an official public holiday observed May 17. But if the California stay-at-home order is still in effect then, they’ll turn their sights to a holiday that’s still new to the Njotens — Thanksgiving.

“We have American family now,” Zoe said.

To read the article, hit here

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Friday, April 24, 2020

I found a sister on Ancestry DNA

How do you tell a new sibling that their father was a career criminal who died in prison? This was a conversation that I had in 2019... Watch me ring in 2020 and offer practical advice on how to handle unexpected DNA matches with siblings. (This video is a little dark in topic)

To watch the video, hit here

Thursday, April 23, 2020

1918 Spanish Flu historical documentary | Swine Flu Pandemic | Deadly plague of 1918

Historical documentary about 1918 Swine Flu or Spanish Flu and the role of World War I in spreading the disease among troops making it into a worldwide plague of devastating proportions. The video covers where it began, how and where it spread, the symptoms, how it affected America and whether it could happen again.

To watch it, hit here

Sunday, April 19, 2020

"Like Horoscope Readings!": The Scammy World of DNA Test Startups

In the spring of 2017, a college student named Mary spit into a tube and sent it to the DNA testing company Ancestry, which analyzed it and sent back a breakdown of her family history. But Mary wanted to know more.

The human genome contains, in theory, an extraordinary wealth of pre-programmed information about who we are and who we might become: whether she was at risk for the same types of cancer that killed her parents, for instance, or if she had medical conditions she could unknowingly pass on to her children.

For that information, Mary — we’re withholding her last name to protect her privacy — turned to a dubious new sector of the genomics industry, in which startups claim to provide vastly greater insights than prominent companies like Ancestry and 23andMe do. She uploaded a copy of her raw genetic code, which Ancestry provided as a 17.6 megabyte text file, to a site called Genomelink, which advertises tests for everything from medical conditions and mental illnesses to ludicrously specific personality traits including “loneliness,” “social communication problems,” and “vulnerability to helicopter parenting.”

But when her results arrived, Mary immediately noticed that many were “wildly inaccurate.” Genomelink said she was “less easily depressed,” but Mary was diagnosed with clinical depression at a young age. The startup predicted that she had a peanut allergy, but Mary told Futurism that “peanut butter is one of the true loves of my life.” Other errors in Mary’s report included traits like blood iron levels, body fat measurements, hearing problems, height, and skin complexion.

“I felt that much of it was off-base and unhelpful,” she told Futurism, “as it didn’t fit me at all.”

Genomelink is just one of a growing number of shady DNA testing startups now operating in the regulatory Wild West of commercial genomics.

There’s GenePlaza, for instance, which sold a DNA test that claimed to predict users’ sexual preferences — and still sells tests that purport to measure intelligence and risk of depression. A company called Soccer Genomics claims to examine a child’s DNA to create a sports training regimen to turn them into the perfect soccer player. An outfit called GenoPalate told a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter that their DNA demanded a diet of elk meat and passion fruit. A venture called Vinome claims it can recommend the perfect wine for each person based on their genetic code.

The problem, according to experts, is that these companies are promising information about DNA with a granularity that even scientists can’t deliver. Deanna Church, a geneticist at the biotech company Inscripta, told Futurism the tests are “all equally useless.”

“There is not a scientific basis for this sort of testing,” she said. “I certainly would not recommend anyone spend any money on this sort of thing.”

But thousands of people are doing just that — and receiving supposed facts about themselves that have little or no scientific grounding. This can cause problems — Genomelink customers could feasibly see their predictions for traits like “gluten sensitivity,” “longevity,” or “alcohol drinking behavior,” assume the results are valid, and make ill-informed lifestyle or medical changes based on the results.

And other Genomelink customers agree with Mary: the results just don’t hold up.

“It sometimes feels like horoscope readings!” one woman told Futurism. “Many seem like self-perception results. How can I know if they are correct when what I feel about it may only be my perception rather than a fact?”

Another concern is privacy. Genomelink tells customers they can request to have their data scrubbed from the company’s servers, but all it takes is one corporate acquisition — or potentially a generous enough bid for the stores of personal data — for that to change. Underlying the phenomenon is an unavoidable economic reality: It’s getting incredibly cheap to have your DNA sequenced. Just ten years ago, it cost nearly $100,000 to produce a full human genome, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute. Today, an Ancestry kit costs just $59.

These increasingly-affordable tests are tantalizing — your DNA is essentially a personal blueprint that dictates everything from your susceptibility to specific diseases to your eye color. While our environments and lifestyles play major roles in who and what we become, the influence of DNA is vast.

The ability to interpret DNA’s full influence, however, still eludes us. Geneticists have only started to crack DNA’s code, and experts told Futurism that they’re nowhere near able to predict something as complex as personality traits — and that any startup claiming to do so should raise immediate red flags.

“I think it’s fair to say that by and large, most of these tests are not useful at the moment,” Shoumita Dasgupta, a biomedical geneticist at the Boston University School of Medicine, told Futurism. “Maybe it’s just me being cynical, but I think it’s simply greed that is driving people to develop these tools for which there is limited scientific justification at best.”

Tomohiro Takano, the CEO of Genomelink parent company Awakens, readily admits that the results aren’t always accurate.

“I know that many of the DNA traits may not be true,” Takano said in an interview with Futurism.

Takano did point toward some steps Genomelink has taken to communicate its own limitations. Every time a Genomelink customer gets a new trait report, he said, it comes with information that indicates how reliable the prediction is, along with a breakdown of the rigor of the studies it’s based on.

Takano also defended the company by saying that it doesn’t explicitly recommend lifestyle changes based on results.

“What we want to do here is communicate that limitation too,” he said. “Many of our users, myself included, want to know where is the science today.”

Overall, Takano said, he sees Genomelink as an entertainment product as much as an educational one — an idea that was harshly rebuked by experts.

“I think it is concerning when the line between medical testing and ‘entertainment’ is blurred,” Gillian Hooker, President-Elect of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, told Futurism. “Imagery and language that indicates a test may be medically useful could be very misleading when there’s limited or no evidence to support its use.”

“And I think there is a particular vulnerability when you involve conditions that are poorly understood scientifically, physically and emotionally challenging and for which people may be seeking answers that science has yet to uncover,” Hooker added, listing traits like depression, allergies, vitamin reports, and food sensitivities — all of which Genomelink claims to identify.

Make no mistake: DNA tests can already provide doctors with valuable information about patients’ health, and Hooker often helps patients navigate them in her clinical practice. Genetic assessments can help oncologists determine whether their patients have a high risk of cancer, for instance, and how best to treat any existing tumors.

It might be simplest to picture DNA as an extremely intricate instruction manual. DNA exists as a long string of molecules called nucleotides, which include one of four molecular components. The order of those four components, read from one end to the other, guides the biological machinery found in every cell as it assembles and operates the human body.

Hooker said DNA screens will likely provide useful tools for cardiologists, neurologists, pediatricians, and also for prenatal caregivers. But the science to support tests for mental illness and intelligence — already a poorly-defined metric — isn’t there yet.

“For complex traits, we just don’t understand enough to be able to look at someone’s DNA and make predictions about sports ability, intelligence, etc,” Church, the geneticist, said. “It is not that these things don’t have a genetic component, it is just that we don’t understand enough about the genetics, or how environment impacts these genetic variants.”

Because this realm of science is so new, Hooker recommends that patients consult with trained genetic counselors who can offer specialized guidance to make sure tests will yield useful info and help people understand and come to terms with their results afterward.

Mary took her results with a grain of salt and realized that Genomelink wasn’t giving her valid interpretations of her DNA. But others could easily be misled — Mary said that she feels Genomelink never communicated to her the scientific limitations of its reports.

“Personally, I find it irresponsible to market products of this type,” Dasgupta, the geneticist from Boston, told Futurism, because providing genetic trait reports that are validated by robust science alongside flimsier predictions lends authority to the latter.

She added: “We can’t expect the average consumer to be able to tell the difference.”

To read more of the article, hit here

Friday, April 17, 2020

Here’s What You Need to Know About At-Home DNA Kits

It was so fun to find out your nonna—she of the world-famous pasta with pignoli—is not, in fact, even uno percento Italian. But what about the next level of findings from a genetic testing kit, the kind that focus more on health risks than on ancestry? Those results can be decidedly less delightful to get back. But at-home genetic tests (like 23andMe and also more detailed, medical-focused ones, like Color) spike in sales during the holiday season.
Before you send off your vial of saliva, you should decide what you’ll do with the information (what if it’s bad news?) and what the privacy implications are. Granted, your genetic risk isn’t your health destiny—your age, gender, family history, and lifestyle all play roles too.
To watch a video and read more of the article, hit here

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Consumer DNA Tests Do Not Accurately Predict Disease

Three years ago, I gave my family members DNA kits as Christmas gifts. I thought the genetic health aspects of the test would be an entertaining exercise -- a bit like visiting a psychic who would read tarot cards to predict the future. I didn’t think of it as a serious medical test, and I made sure my family understood that.

These kits have become very popular. More than 26 million people have taken an at-home genetics test, hoping to learn more about their ancestral background, along with their risks of developing certain diseases. But the tests may not live up to either of those expectations.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent a report to Congress in 2010 alleging that some DNA testing companies used deceptive marketing and other questionable practices. 

The GAO stated that results from DNA tests were “misleading and of little or no practical use.” Their investigation also uncovered the fact that different DNA testing companies provided different results from the same sample. 

Not only were the test results dubious, but the companies made some deceptive claims. One company alleged the results from their testing could help cure diseases. Another claimed the data could predict at which sports a child would excel.

Admittedly, the accuracy of the tests has improved since 2010, but the tests still are, at best, imperfect.

Our genome (the whole of our hereditary information, encoded in our DNA) contains about three billion genes. Of those, only about 20,000 are responsible for disease. But we are more than our genes. Whether or not we will get most diseases depends on a combination of our genes and environment. This interaction of environment and genes is what we call a phenotype.

Of course, there are genetic mutations that are responsible for specific diseases. Single-gene mutations are responsible for about 10,000 diseases, the majority of which are considered rare. Some of the more common single-gene disorders include sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, and Huntington's disease.

However, there is no guarantee that direct-to-consumer DNA kits are capable of detecting all common single genetic mutations. Moreover, the absence of a reported mutation from these kits does not mean the mutation does not exist.

Testing may uncover some benign and interesting traits, though. For example, some genetic kits (but not all) can tell you if you have a gene associated with how your earlobes are shaped, whether your urine has an offensive odor after you eat asparagus, or if you are inclined to dislike cilantro.

The accuracy of the health-related portion of the tests is improving. It is now possible to test for genes that predict a person's risk for certain types of breast and prostate cancers. However, placing too much weight on the results of those tests can be dangerous. For example, the tests do not screen for all types of breast cancer, which can lead consumers to falsely conclude their risk of all breast cancers is low if their test results do not indicate a gene mutation associated with breast cancer.

At best, the types of DNA tests that provide information on single-mutation diseases should be accompanied by appropriate genetic counseling. Since most diseases are based on multiple genes and environment, a genetics counselor can help put the test results into perspective.

Deciding how to use the information may be more important than knowing the results of the test. In medicine, we never order a test unless it will help us provide better care for our patient. This may be an important principle to apply here as well.

Privacy Is a Big Concern
We should also be very concerned about how our DNA data will be stored and used. The testing companies' DNA databases can be hacked by people with nefarious motives, or shared with insurance companies or law enforcement. Laws protecting consumers are evolving, but clearly, at-home DNA tests expose consumers to unknown and, perhaps, unintended consequences.

DNA tests were first pitched to consumers as a way in which they could learn about their ancestry. However, the reference data sets were largely European and less accurate in showing lineages in other areas of the world. If your roots were Asian or African, the reports were less likely to accurately reflect where your ancestors lived.

Over time, the data sets have improved and expanded, so consumers with non-European ancestry may get more accurate information about their heritages now than they would have previously. That trend will likely continue.

Whether DNA kits are mostly a gimmick, I cannot say. But it is important to recognize their limitations in providing trustworthy information about our health or ancestry. Certainly, we should not base health decisions on their results, and I would think twice about paying for the privilege of delivering my DNA profile to a for-profit company.

Maybe this year I’ll just give everyone tarot decks.

To read more of the article, hit here

Monday, April 13, 2020

DNA from Stone Age ‘chewing gum’ tells an incredible story

For the first time, scientists used 5,700-year-old saliva to sequence the complete human genome of an ancient hunter gatherer, as well as the world of microbes that lived inside her.

To read more of this article, hit here

Saturday, April 11, 2020

How President Tyler, born in 1790, still has two living grandsons

President John Tyler was born in 1790, but still has two living grandsons. We met with members of his family to find out how two generations managed to last through most of U.S. history. CBS News national correspondent Chip Reid explains.

To watch the video, hit here

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Police lifted DNA from her trash and charged her with a baby's 1981 murder. She says that was illegal.

Theresa Bentaas is fighting a murder charge by saying police should not have taken DNA from her garbage without a warrant.

On Feb. 11, 2019, undercover detectives removed the trash from outside a 57-year-old paralegal’s home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in hopes of finding her DNA.

Police were led to Theresa Bentaas’ home by a new investigative technique that combines direct-to-consumer genetic testing and genealogical records. The detectives believed they were close to solving a crime that had haunted the city for 38 years: a newborn left to die in a frigid roadside ditch, tears frozen to his cheeks.

Once they’d taken the garbage from Bentaas’ home, the detectives pulled out beer cans, water bottles and cigarette butts, according to court documents. They sent the items to a state crime lab, where analysts extracted DNA that they said might belong to the baby’s mother.

Citing those results, one of the detectives got a search warrant to obtain a DNA sample directly from Bentaas. When he showed up at her home, Bentaas admitted to leaving the baby in the ditch in February 1981 after secretly giving birth, saying she’d been “young and stupid” and scared, according to an affidavit submitted by the detective.

A few days later, according to court documents, Bentaas’ DNA swab revealed her as the baby’s likely mother. Police arrested her on a charge of murder.

To read more of this article, hit here

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Family Secrets Emerge as DNA Testing Gains Popularity

Two families with lifelong secrets unearthed because of home DNA test kits are now dealing with the truth. Here's what their stories tell us about the shock that can come from new ancestry technology, and how to deal with it. To watch the video, hit here

Friday, April 3, 2020

“Roots Less Traveled”, a New Television Series Co-Produced by Ancestry®, to Debut on NBC April 4

The following is an announcement written by Ancestry®:

We’re excited to announce we have a new television show debuting on NBC which features real people and their personal discoveries! From the comfort of your own couch, you can tag along each week as Roots Less Traveled follows a pair of family members​ who bond over their joint quest to learn more about their shared family history.

NOTE for newsletter readers outside the USA: NBC is an American television network. Roots Less Traveled probably will not be available in your country.

The series features relatives as they set out on an adventure to solve mysteries in their family tree. From rumors of ancestors aboard the Titanic to stories of homesteaders forging a new path for future generations, the duos discover the truth behind the tales that have been passed down for generations, revealing the inspiring lives their ancestors led. In partnership with Ancestry®, they learn how their past has shaped their present and through this shared journey how family bonds are deepened.

 Roots Less Traveled joins the Saturday NBC morning programming block, The More You Know, beginning April 4, 2020. Please check your local listings for further details. Episodes will also stream on NBC.com and Hulu.

To watch the video, hit here

Here are some fun facts about Roots Less Traveled by the numbers!

 This season, we visit 7 locations across the U.S., Cuba and Mexico.

 14 people take this journey of a lifetime.

Faruq Tauheed is the show’s 1 host.

 Over 800 hours of family history research went into this series.

The 7 family trees created for this season include 460 people and 1,280 records.

Tune in for 7 great stories and 1 “best of” episode starting April 4. Don’t forget to check your local listings.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Update with Panes.info

April 1, 2020

We are pleased to announce that the Colegio de Michoacan has joined us in our efforts to make more of the colonial documents available online. Dr. Clementina Campos Reyes the Department Head of Cultural Dissemination is working with us to establish a team to help the Historical Archivo of the Archivo General de la Nacion with this goal and at the same time improve their catalog and make the site more accessible. We shall keep you posted on our progress.
Sylvia Fernandez Magdaleno continues her work transcribing more records for Chihuahua researchers: Carrizal Resettlement and Valle de Zaragoza (Pilar de Conchos) are now online. Thank you, Sylvia from all of us Chihuahuenses.
As of this writing, we have included the following links:
* A link to the Documentary Relations of the Southwest under Sonora and Chihuahua, an interesting site. The University of Arizona created this site which has transcriptions of documents related to Northern Mexico searchable by names.
* The National Park Service has a site called Mission 2000 which is a data base for parishes in Northern Sonora.
* Under Spain we have a link to the Floridablanca Digital Library, another interesting website especially interesting if you have nobility in your genealogy tree.

Website https://panes.info/

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A DNA test connected two distant cousins — and filled out a family history that slavery erased

Jean Kapenda always hoped to help African Americans to find their African roots. That dream came true in a very personal way.

Kapenda, a criminal justice professor at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, has been interested in genealogy and ancestry for a long time. A few years ago, he did a swab and sent it to a genetic testing site.

After getting the results, Kapenda, who is originally from Democratic Republic of Congo, has been able to trace hundreds of relatives in the Americas, most of them the descendents of people enslaved and sent on ships across the ocean.

“It’s as if I was lost and somebody found me,” Kapenda said, describing what it feels like to find members of his family.

This year marks 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies in the Americas. Kapenda and his relatives share the painful history of slavery, and he says meeting an African ancestor is a remarkable life experience.

"It's been 400 years, so the most important thing is to find an African who shares DNA with you, somebody who was born in Africa, somebody who's got his roots in Africa and just being connected to that person means a lot, that you share a common ancestor who was taken to the Americas 400 years ago, 300 years ago, maybe 250 years ago," Kapenda said.

One of those remarkable moments happened at The World studio in Boston last Friday. Kapenda met his fourth cousin, Aiyana Lakes, in person for the first time. Kapenda and Lakes share a set of fourth great-grandparents.

Lakes, who is a graduate student at Fisher College in Boston, wanted to explore her ancestry and also did a DNA test to find out where she was from. She also chose to be notified whenever someone’s DNA matched hers. This is how Kapenda was able to reach Lakes and begin building a relationship.

“Our history doesn't begin and end with slavery,” Lakes said. “Our first conversations had nothing to do with slavery. It had everything to do with, ‘Your tribe is full of strength in riches, and slavery was just a blip in the radar.’ I wish that we as African Americans and scholars would teach you more of the power that comes out of Africa versus just the slave trade.”

Lakes says she was looking for a way to connect with more African Americans when she took the DNA test.

“For me it was, well, what type of American am I and why do I have to identify as one type of American because I don't really know where I'm from?” she said. “If you ask me, I'm from Boston because I don't have another language. We have our own traditions that we've kind of made for ourselves, but I can't say my family's from Puerto Rico, my family's from Cuba. I can't say that. So, I took the DNA test to kind of see exactly where I was from to maybe do some research to find out what are some of my traditions, what are some of my dishes. And that's why it was so great when my cousin reached out.”

Lakes brought her son, Terrian, and her mother, Audray Spencer, to The World studio to meet Kapenda, who was able to fill in some of the information Lakes was looking for.

“So, now my little cousin, my little nephew Terrian, has an uncle,” Kapenda said. “I am your uncle and I'm a Lunda, a Lunda from the Congo. So, whenever they ask you where you're from you would say, ‘I am from the Congo, I'm in Lunda and my uncle Jean Kapenda is a Lunda.’”

The Lunda tribe founded an empire in the 16th century and reached the height of its power in the 1850s. It stretched from what is now Democratic Republic of Congo, northeastern Angola and northwestern Zambia.

Spencer says she saw this as an important moment for her grandson.

“I feel good to know now that my grandson will be able to actually say a tribe that he — that means me, too — am connected to. And I can actually say, ‘I'm from Lunda tribe’ while I have been told so many times, “You have no country.””

Lakes says she hopes to one day visit Africa.

“That was my ultimate goal is to find a way to get back to Africa,” Lakes said. “But when I first started it I didn't know that I would have actual family there. So, now it's time to start saving up the pennies because I really want my son to know where he's from and not feel like he doesn't have a connection to his ancestors or to his roots or anything. When you grow up and people are continually asking you, ‘What are you?’ because you don't look like one particular race,  it kind of weighs on you.”

Friday, March 27, 2020

Ancestry now offers FREE Access to Millions of Historical Records and Images from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

The following is an extract from an article by Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis describing the company’s actions to support our community during this time of uncertainty during the CoronaVirus pandemic. The article was published in the Ancestry Blog at https://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/:

Ancestry has collaborated with the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to offer temporary free access to millions of historical records and images from the federal government. And we will continue providing free online tutorials and video courses to help people get started with family tree building.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Home DNA tests reveal more than we bargained for

You may not be one of the more than 30 million people who have spat into a tube and shipped off their saliva or a cheek swab using one of those at-home DNA testing kits sold by companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry, but soon that won’t matter.

We are moving towards a time when the decision to know or ignore your genetic data will no longer be yours alone, according to Libby Copeland, author of “The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are.”

“You don’t have the choice anymore increasingly, of whether or not you opt in or not,” explained Copeland. “You are opted in by dint of the fact that people have made this decision for you. They bought [the kit] as a Christmas gift for their sister, and their sister tested. And that sister is your aunt, and that’s it.”

We are only just beginning to grapple with the consequences of the commercialization of our genes through home genetic testing. There was an inkling of where things were headed back in the spring of 2018 when authorities in Sacramento County announced that they had arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, the man they believed to be the infamous Golden State Killer. The police were able to track down DeAngelo and identify him because of DNA data uploaded to a free online genealogy service by one of his distant relatives.

Since DeAngelo’s arrest, investigators around the country have used similar techniques to solve more cold cases — techniques that have privacy experts worried. There is a lot that you can find out about a person from their genetic information. Leading genetic testing companies do have measures in place to protect their users’ identities, but there are many open questions about who will own, have access to, or be able to control our genetic data in the years to come, according to Copeland. Could that genetic information eventually be shared or sold to a third party, or could it be hacked and made public?

There are also implications for the world of private health insurance because DNA results can include sensitive details about potential medical risks. Copeland said it is not difficult to imagine a time when your health insurer finds out that you or a family member has obtained the results of a home genetic test and demands that you share that information with them.

“If you don’t give them [it], that could be considered fraud. And if you do give them [it], that could potentially impact certain types of insurance,” she explained. “It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s something that people worry about.”

There is federal legislation in place to protect people against genetic discrimination, but it has some loopholes, which is a concern for legal and privacy scholars, according to Copeland.

The Pentagon is worried too. Last year it warned service members about the risks of using commercial genetic tests, including potentially negative consequences for their careers and the security of the military.

Despite the objections of privacy experts, nobody seems to be in a hurry to regulate the wild west of commercial genetic testing at either the state or federal level, and customers are not overly concerned either, said Copeland.

“The average consumer doesn’t seem to be clamoring to be finding out less or to be more protected from their information,” she explained. 

It is early days though — and, since it is not unusual for laws to lag behind advances in technology, nobody quite knows what the future might hold when it comes to big data and the unanticipated consequences of genetic genealogy.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Free and unlimited access!

Notice from Daniel Horowitz from MyHeritage
I’m happy to share that we’re giving everyone FREE and unlimited access to MyHeritage In Color™ from March 23 to April 23, so that people everywhere can join in the fun of colorizing their black and white photos. Ordinarily only 10 photos can be colorized by users who do not have a Complete plan, but now, you can colorize as many photos as you’d like for free.
Colorizing photos is the perfect activity for anyone who is isolated at home. We invite everyone to pull out their family photo albums, colorize their photos, and start reminiscing. Over the coming month, anyone who shares their colorized photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #ColorBeatsCoronavirusBlues and tags @MyHeritage will enter a weekly draw. Each week we’ll select one lucky winner who will receive a free MyHeritage Complete subscription!
Please share the news on your social channels and with your audience so they can make the most of this opportunity and colorize their photos.
I also invite you to join me this Tuesday March 24 at 1:00 pm EST for a 30-minute session on how to work with this incredible feature. Feel free to register here and prepare your questions in advance.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Notice to Members

Please be informed the Southern California Genealogical Society Library in Burbank is closing for the remainder of March 2020 and the entire month of April 2020.

Our next scheduled meeting in Burbank is May 2, 2020.  We will watch the situation closely.

Hispanic Tuesday's scheduled for March 17, 2020 and April 21, 2020 are cancelled.  Hispanic Thursday South Bay  will be close for March and April and Hispanic Research and Indigenous Mexico Consultations in West Los Angeles are on hold until June. Notification on the return of Hispanic Research Days will be announce when it is safe and when our host reopens their doors.

Be Calm and Stay Safe.


Lenny Trujillo, President
GSHA Southern California Chapter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Which is the Best Genealogy Site? Ancestry.com vs. FamilySearch.org: Learn the Power of Using Both!

Which is the better genealogy website, Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org?  In this Genealogy TV episode, I’ve got five examples demonstrating the power of using FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com together to amplify your family history search results. To watch the video hit here Don't forget to skip the ad!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Update on Panes.INFO

marzo 2020
¡La obra se sigue!
Hemos recibido nuevos registros transcritos (censos y registros militares) gracias una vez más a los esfuerzos de Silvia. Estas investigaciones incluyen los pueblos de Jimenez, Pilar de Conchas, San Buenaventura, Carrizal, Coyane, y Nonoava todos en la area de Chihuahua.
Los que tienen antepasados en Sonora y Alta California deben conseguir "El Esquer Family Genealogy" por Stella Cardosa que se puede encontrar en Amazon.com. Es una obra excelente y muy informativa y sería una gran adicción a su biblioteca genealógica.
Los que tienen antepasados de Cuba deben ver El Archivo Digital de la Sociedad de Esclavos que está disponible en la Universidad de Vanderbilt. Se han digitalizado algunos registros Católicos de Cuba.

March 2020
The work is moving right along!
We have received more transcribed records (census and military) thanks again to the continuing efforts of Sylvia. This research includes the towns of Jimenez, Pilar de Conchas, San Buenaventura, Carrizal, Coyane, and Nonoava all in the area of Chihuahua.
Those of you who have ancestors in Sonora and Alta California need to get a copy of "El Esquer Family Genealogy" by Stella Cardosa which can be found at Amazon.com. It is an excellent work and very informative and would make a great addition to your genealogy library.
Those of you who have ancestors from Cuba should check out the Digital Archive of the Society of Slaves. It is available at the Vanderbilt University where they have digitized some of the Catholic records of Cuba.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Police told a mother her DNA would identify a dead relative. They arrested her son instead.

'They lied to us': Mom says police deceived her to get her DNA and charge her son with murder
A murder case raises the question: Is it OK for police to lie to get an innocent person's DNA?

VALDOSTA, Ga. — On an October morning in 2018, Eleanor Holmes and her husband left home to run an errand and found two men inside their front gate. They introduced themselves as detectives from Orlando, Florida, and said they needed the couple’s help.

Standing in the driveway, the casually dressed detectives said they were trying to identify someone who’d been found dead many years earlier, the Holmeses recalled. They were looking for the person’s relatives, and were using DNA and genealogical records to stitch together a family tree that they hoped would lead them to a name. Friendly and businesslike, they said they’d already got DNA samples from Eleanor Holmes’ sister and an aunt. And now they wanted hers.

Holmes already knew about the detectives’ visit to her sister. It worried her that someone in her family had died without anyone knowing about it. She had relatives in Orlando, including a niece whom she hadn’t heard from in more than a decade. So she agreed.

“I just did it because that was the only thing on my mind, my niece. That was it, bottom line,” Holmes said in a recent interview.

The detectives, still standing in the driveway, swabbed Holmes’ cheek and put the sample in a container. They thanked her, gave her a business card and drove away.

She thought nothing of it until a few days later, when she got a frantic phone call from the girlfriend of one of her sons, Benjamin Holmes Jr. Orlando police had just arrested him for allegedly fatally shooting a college student, Christine Franke, in her Florida home in 2001. They’d used DNA and genealogical records to tie him to the crime.

In that panicked moment, it dawned on Holmes that the detectives hadn’t told her the truth. They’d used her DNA to help build a case against her son.

“When they arrested him, I knew they were lying,” Holmes said. “They lied to us.”

Police have said that the arrest of Benjamin Holmes Jr., 39, shows their commitment “to do everything we can to solve crimes.” Franke’s family says the arrest has given them long-needed answers about her death and allowed them to stop wondering if the killer was still out there, free to prey on others.

Benjamin Holmes Jr. and his parents, though, say he is innocent. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial, scheduled for June, may be the first to explore how police conduct investigations using genetic genealogy, a largely unregulated technology that has exploded in popularity in recent years.

Holmes and her husband, who are both in their mid-70s, aren’t the only ones in their family who feel misled by police. In the months before taking her DNA, Orlando detectives visited more than a dozen of her relatives in Florida and Georgia. Several said they were told a similar story before agreeing to provide DNA samples.

“It was just deception, not only to me but all my other family members, because they know what they were looking for when they took the DNA,” Holmes said. “They weren't looking for someone in our family that had been killed, or that was dead. They were looking totally to find out whether or not our DNA coincided with Benjamin's. That's what they were looking for.”

A new tool for a cold case
For 17 years, Orlando police detectives had tried to figure out who killed Franke. Although the case had gone cold, each did what they could with the available technology and manpower. But every lead, every potential clue found at the scene, left them, and Franke’s family, without answers.

“I thought they’d never catch him,” Franke’s mother, Tina, 70, said.

Early in the morning of Oct. 21, 2001, after working a double shift, Franke returned home to an empty apartment; her girlfriend was out of town. Later that day, after the girlfriend was unable to reach her, she called a neighbor, who found Franke dead just inside the apartment door.

She’d been shot once in the head, and her wallet, containing no cash, had been discarded on the floor, according to court documents. Her clothing had been partially removed, and investigators found semen on her body. Police surmised that she had resisted the killer’s attempts to rob and rape her.

Police took a sample of the semen and submitted it to the state crime lab, which developed a profile and entered it into a national criminal database. There was no match. They took DNA from dozens of people ─ potential suspects, as well as friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances and witnesses ─ and compared their profiles to the DNA found at the scene. Again, no hits.

An evidence marker at the scene of Christine Franke's shooting death.Orlando Police Department
They tried other forensic methods ─ lifting fingerprints from the apartment, entering a shell casing into a national firearms database ─ and found nothing. Years passed with no progress.

That changed in April 2018, when California authorities announced that they’d used a groundbreaking technique to identify a man they said was the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and murderer who’d terrorized the state in the 1970s and the 1980s. Law enforcement officials said they’d solved the case by entering crime-scene DNA into an online database called GEDmatch, where people shared profiles purchased from direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe.

Orlando Detective Michael Fields, who inherited the Franke case from a retired colleague in 2012, decided to try the same tactic. He reached out to a Virginia company, Parabon NanoLabs, which had just started helping law enforcement identify unknown suspects by using genealogy websites to find their relatives and build family trees. The researchers, led by Parabon’s top genealogist, CeCe Moore, found two cousins of the suspected killer in GEDmatch and traced their common ancestors to a husband and wife who lived in Valdosta in the first half of the 1900s.

The Valdosta couple had an extremely large family, producing a sprawling family tree. Navigating that thicket left Fields and the researchers at dead ends, unable to go further without getting DNA from more people in the family.

Testing the limits of DNA collection
Asking innocent people to voluntarily provide their DNA — known as “target testing” — is an unseen but essential, and thorny, component of investigative genetic genealogy. While police are seeking straightforward information about family ties, the process can also reveal secrets, including out-of-wedlock births and adoptions, ethics and privacy experts say. Subjects may not fully understand how their DNA profiles will be used.

While American courts have ruled that police are allowed to mislead people to obtain evidence, there’s a debate within law enforcement over how honest police should be in seeking DNA from people who aren’t suspected of a crime.

Investigator Matt Denlinger works cold cases for the Cedar Rapids Police Department in Iowa. He used target testing to help solve the 1979 murder of a teenage girl. He says the truth, without including many details, usually works.

“You just go up and tell them what you’re doing. No sleight of hand,” he said. “Most people are happy to help. They know they’re not involved. People get excited to help solve a mystery, if you phrase it that way.”

To read more of the article hit here