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/