Sunday, September 27, 2009

Exciting News for Genealogists

Until now, the advantages of autosomal testing for genealogy have been elusive at best. But a "new feature" is now available from 23andMe. For example, a female can now participate by taking a DNA test (without a proxy tester) and see if she's related to a male with whom she shares a common ancestor. Another exciting possibility is the opportunity to trace disease or genetic disorders in a family.

There’s much more, of course, and a highly respected genetic genealogist has prepared a series of “essays” describing what autosomal testing does and does not do for genealogists (and anyone else, of course). She has kindly given me permission to post her work here, and I am pleased to share it with you.

Y-DNA, mtDNA and Autosomal Testing
By Roberta Estes, www.dnaexplain.com

Chapter 1. Will Three Sisters Test the Same?

Today's question was whether three sisters would test the same. That's a great question.

First, take a little internet journey and watch a short clip about how autosomal inheritance works. You can find it at http://www.smgf.org/education/animations/autosomal.jspx and it shows you clearly how you inherit from your parents and they from their parents. It's actually very easy to understand when you can see it graphically, much easier to understand than trying to understand it from a verbal description. They explain how autosomal DNA can help you understand both our deep ancestry and our recent genetic past.

You can see in the video how each child actually inherits a random combination of the DNA from their 4 grandparents. The key words here are random combination. In each of the parents, they have DNA from their parents and they can only pass on half of that to each child, so it's randomly combined to form just enough to pass on to a child. Each child gets a different random combination from their parents. Think of 3 different card decks being shuffled. None of the three will be in the exact same order, but they will indeed all have the same cards as members of the deck. If you were deal only half of each deck, each set cards would include different cards from the original deck.

Let's talk for a minute about random recombination. We're learning that maybe random isn't quite as random as we had thought. It has been discovered that some DNA is passed in groups typically and blocks of DNA are often not broken up and are passed together. The closer you are related to someone, the more likely it will be that you will carry some of the same blocks of DNA that they do. The more distantly related, the fewer blocks you'll have in common and the smaller those blocks will be. This is one of the ways that 23andMe determines your genetic distance from someone and they classify you as "close relative", 3rd cousin, 4th, 5th, 6th, etc.

So to answer the original question, three sisters (or siblings) would not test the same because they would inherit different genes from their parents, which are actually a recombination of the DNA of their 4 grandparents.

Some portions of the test results you would expect to be more similar than others.
-Health Traits - some of these might be the same, but some might be completely different as well due to the inheritance patterns.
-Haplogroup - mitochondrial haplogroup would be identical assuming the same mother, Yline haplogroup would be identical for males assuming the same father
-Ethnicity - this is the interesting area where sibling can actually differ depending on the genes they inherited. One sibling could indeed have somewhat different results for their percent ethnicity due to the genes they did, or did not, inherit from their parents/grandparents.
-"New Feature" - this should be pretty much the same, but might differ on more distant relationships due to recombination

In a nutshell, you can't extrapolate the health information of your sibling to be your own because you inherit differently from your parents. You can extrapolate some of your ancestry information to be the same as your own, but not all of it. I think it would be very interesting to compare the results of a number of parent/child and sibling tests to see how well 23andMe does in their "new feature" predictions.

Chapter 2. Proving Relationships

Today I'm going to talk about using this test to prove a relationship.
I can't tell you how many times over the years I've had someone ask me if there as any way to "prove that so and so is my cousin". Of course, the scenario varies with males and females, how closely related, etc., but the basic question is still the same. Before now, I always had to tell them one of three things:
1. If you are both males and share the surname, you can do the Y dna test which won't absolutely "prove" it, but is pretty compelling evidence. However this scenario applied to few of the people asking.
2. If you both descend from a common female through female lines, you can test your mtdna. Most of the time however, the question of paternity was more of the father's identity and did not include a question about the mother.
3. You can turn to paternity/siblingship testing at a separate nongenealogy lab. These labs attempt to "reconstuct" families using the DNA of the two people in question of course, and hope to get more members of the family (like their parents) to participate as well so that the DNA can be attributed to a source and thereby eliminated or included in the equation. This approach is extremely expensive and often inconclusive.

Let me share my own story.
My father died in a car accident when I was 7 years old. After my step-mother passed away some 25 years later, her daughter sent me a bundle of letters that had to do with my family. One of these letters included a letter from my aunt (my father's sister) to my step-mother. When I first started doing genealogy, some 30+ years ago now, I had called this aunt and asked her many questions. Although she answered them for me, or I thought she had, she apparently was not inclined to divulge what she thought were the family secrets. So she wrote a letter to my step-mother telling her all about how unhappy she was that I was asking "all those nosey questions" and then proceeded to tell my step-mother just what it was she was NOT going to tell me and how it was really none of my business, etc. Well, thank goodness she did that, because several years later, I would get my answers from that very letter. Isn't fate a wonderful thing sometimes.

In the letter was a reference to the fact that my father had another child, a boy. I was utterly stunned. I asked my mother about this and she was very guarded, to say the least, about the topic. I would later learn that it's because the child was born only 5 months before I was born. My father was somewhat of a "colorful character", to put it mildly, and my mother was very embarrassed about the situation. So, apparently, was the other woman, my brother's mother. My father literally had two families in two different states. Talk about the consummate "traveling salesman" story. Anyway, that aside, I began a search for my brother whose name I didn't even know. Talk about a needle in a haystack.

Fast forward about 20 years. I finally found my brother through a combination of dogged research and happy accidents. One of my biggest breaks was when I was trying to apply for a passport and discovered that there had been something filed in a court in Fort Wayne, Indiana having to do with me. I asked my mother why it was filed in Fort Wayne and she told me that was where my father was living at the time. I went to Fort Wayne (to the genealogy library there) for other purposes and subsequently happened by an old City Directory. On a whim I picked it up and found my father, his "wife" and MY BROTHER’S NAME. After that, it wasn't easy, but at least I had names and locations to use. My aunt was long dead by this time and my mother had already told me what she knew, which was little. She knew the first name of the "other woman", but nothing more. At least that much confirmed that I had located the right family.

After searching for nearly 20 years, I finally found my brother a few years ago and he had no idea I existed. He had no siblings and his mother was now deceased as well. We're both glad to have family. He took the Yline DNA test and he did not match the ancestral Estes family. However, that doesn't mean he's not my father's son, because we don't have the DNA of my father. Nor did we have the DNA of my Estes grandfather. My grandfather only had 2 sons who grew to adulthood and had sons that survived past childhood. The one Estes male living in that line took the DNA test, and he didn't match either the Estes ancestral line nor my brother. Now we were really up the creek without a proverbial paddle. I was lucky enough to find one male who descended from my great-grandfather who was still alive and he tested as well, and he does match the Estes ancestral line, so we know that the "break" in the DNA line came either with my grandfather's parentage or his son's parentage or his grandson's parentage.

If you're keeping track here, we have 4 possible locations for the DNA to have been "switched". The names below are fake to protect the guilty:)
My grandfather Will.
My grandfather's first son Joe (my father's brother).
Joe's son.
Joe's grandson (who took the test).
My brother (not my father's biological child).
Or a combination of these things.

Here's what I think happened and why.
Joe was the first child born to my grandparents. He arrived 5 months after their marriage. Pure and simple, I think that he was not the child of my grandfather. My grandfather may have known this, or maybe not. I also think that my brother is possibly not my father's child (remember he was gone a lot) as his "other wife" was known to be somewhat promiscuous. But of course there are other scenarios and proof has remained elusive.

How would my brother and I ever unravel this mess? At this point we turned to paternity/siblingship testing. This was extremely expensive, about $1000 for each test. We took this test twice, at two different labs, because the first test came back inconclusive. We match at enough markers to be "suspicious" and at few enough markers for them to declare that we are "probably not half-siblings" but might be related more distantly. Given the geographic circumstances, it's unlikely that we're related at all if we're not half siblings. We were at this point even more exasperated, but we were at the end of what technology had to offer us at the time.

With the introduction of this new test at 23andMe, we will have our answer shortly. 23andMe tests over half a million locations on our DNA, not just the 15 locations that paternity/siblingship testing has to offer. With the "new feature" product, we'll know for sure if we are half-siblings or not.

How will we feel about this? We've discussed it. Both of us knew our father as our father and he viewed and treated us both as his children. We consider ourselves to be brother and sister and whether that is a function of biology or circumstances is irrelevant in terms of how we view each other. It's no different to us that if one of us were adopted by our parents, we would still be siblings. I am the only family he has (other than his kids) and for me, I have one other half-sibling on my mother's side and that's all I have as well (other than my kids). The world is too small to exclude anyone from the family circle to do with circumstances over which they have no control. But, we do still want to know. He wants to know who his father is and I want to know if I've been doing the wrong genealogy for 30+ years. If I'm not really an Estes biologically (meaning my brother is my biological brother, which means his yline DNA is that of my father and means my father doesn't match the ancestral Estes line), then I'd like to know so I can stop doing the Estes genealogy and move on to whatever family I should be researching.

This has been a long story, but I hope it serves to illustrate how this type of testing can begin to answer questions that were unanswerable before this kind of technology was available.

Chapter 3. Proving Native Ancestry

The most common question I've received about the new test is if it will detect Native ancestry.

Ironically, I've spent the past 10 years trying to get people to understand about paternal dna lines (yline testing) and maternal dna lines (mitochondrial dna testing). And everyone has done a great job of learning that, so now folks are having trouble shifting gears.

The answer is yes, it will help you determine if you have Native heritage AND IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MALE OR FEMALE LINES OR IF MALES OR FEMALES TAKE THE TEST.

This test tests over half a million locations of your DNA. Compare that to the various yline tests which test 12, 25, 37, 67, etc or the mtdna test which tests between 1000 and 16,000 locations, depending on the test your order. This is a different kind of test entirely and does not replace those kinds of tests.

In this test, you will receive your percent of ethnicity divided between European, African and Asian. In our case in the US, Asian would equate to Native heritage. So if your Native ancestor is far back in your pedigree chart, you can expect to see a few percent of Asian heritage. This answers the question of "if", but not the answer of "who" the ancestor is who contributed that Native heritage. For that answer, you'll need to revert to the traditional yline and mtdna testing which, if you find enough people to test in your tree, will eventually show which of your ancestors was indeed the Native heritage contributor. Unfortunately for many of us, it will be one of those women whose first name we have and nothing more, or perhaps someone yet unidentified in our charts, making tracking people descended through a female only line impossible. For us, just knowing positively that we do, or don't, have Native heritage may be the best information we will ever be able to glean. On the other hand, if we do have Native heritage, we can use the "new feature" to locate cousins and then we can ask them if they too have Native heritage, so we can probably eliminate some lines in that fashion. We can also arrange for others to test who are in our pedigree chart to see if they too have native heritage, although one has to be careful with drawing conclusions from others tests because Native heritage might have entered their lines from another source. The best bet would be to have our parents test so we can see where it came from. If parents aren't available, full siblings of the parent would be the next best bet.

So, the answer to this question is yes, this tool can be useful in determining whether you have Native ancestry or not.

Chapter 4 How Helpful are the Health Traits Really?

I've had some questions about the Health Traits and how useful they really are. And yes, these are true genetic tests, not some kind of "tea leaf" thing:)

Some are what I call "conversation traits". These are things like baldness, eye color, hair color, freckling and alcohol flush reaction. Some are just "for fun". And as for alcohol flush reaction, you can discover if you flush (as in turn red, not the toilet) when you drink alcohol for the price of a beer, but I digress…..

However, other types of tests are much, much more important and serious. The one most sought after is probably the various breast cancer tests. My sister-in-law had just one test done for the BRCA1 gene at the doctor's office and it cost her over $1800 plus two office visits. This test is included in this panel. How can they do that you ask? Well, if you read the fine print, on the back end, you are asked periodically to opt in and out of various medical studies. I'm very interested in Parkinson’s Disease and want to participate in any way I can in finding a cure.

Let's talk about Parkinson's disease. First, if you turn up more at risk than average for something, it doesn't mean you're going to get that disease, it only means that you need to be more cognizant than you might otherwise be. It's a kind of medical "heads up". My grandfather "shook", but he never had any other Parkinson's symptoms. My mother as she aged "shook" as well, and by process of elimination, the doctor decided she had Parkinson's. Like my grandfather, she never developed any other symptoms. The Parkinson's drugs they gave her never had any effect except to make her sick, but like so many people of her generation, she refused to tell the doctor because "he wouldn't have prescribed them if he hadn't wanted me to take them". Bless her heart and God rest her soul, but the woman was stubborn!

My brother and I never believed she had Parkinson's, we believe she had something called Familial Tremor, also known as Essential Tremor. There's a big difference. Parkinson's is a disease that slowly robs one of their ability to physically function and eventually, their mental ability as well. It is in the end fatal. Essential tremor is irritating and troublesome in terms of spilling things, but is no place near the health issue that Parkinson's is. When I tested, I do not have an elevated risk for Parkinson's disease which I would have expected if mother and my grandfather both had it. My brother is shaking a bit already. Recently 23andMe added the category of Essential Tremor. When I first logged on and saw this, I was thrilled. Each "trait" or "status" or "disease" has it's own writeup about it. I verified that this was indeed the disease I thought it was and do you think I have an increased risk for Essential Tremor????? Surely you know that I do. Had we had this type of info available when mother was alive, we could have tested her for $xxx and she would never had to live with the devastation of a misdiagnosis and all of those nasty drugs that made her sick for the last several years of her life. We could have taken this info to her doctors. Now, my brother and I don’t have to worry (as much) about whether or not Parkinson's is in our future. We just know we'll likely spill our coffee so we can use spill-proof travel mugs.

Let's use one other example. One of the traits is "Warfarin sensitivity". Warfarin is the generic name for blood thinner drugs taken by so many people to prevent blood clots. Genetic markers determine how you metabolize Warfarin. Regulating Warfarin is tricky indeed requiring weekly blood draws until by trial and error the correct dosage is obtained. With this new info available, you can provide your doctor with the info about how you metabolize Warfarin, allowing him or her to adjust your dosage more accurately from the beginning, with less trial and error.

Lastly, let's look at Prostate cancer. One in 6 men develop this disease. While women can't get it, as they don't have a prostate, they can indeed pass the propensity for prostate cancer to their children. That doesn't seem fair does it? Men should be checked regularly, but if you know that you have an increased risk for the disease, you can start earlier and you can be more vigilant in order to catch it earlier, if you do develop the disease. Prostate cancer caught early is very curable.

So in a nutshell, the health traits portion is empowering. It allows you to be more vigilant and more educated about your own body. It also allows you to do this privately, without your insurance company having knowledge that this type of testing was performed, meaning that you can introduce the results into your medical record only if and when YOU see fit!!! If your parents can test, it also allows you to "see" where the particular elevation for a particular health trait came from in your family. This can also be quite important for your children or in situations where adoptions have occurred and nothing about the health of the a persons family is known.

You can see a list of these traits and read about them at https://www.23andme.com/health/.

[Note from Doris: These health tests are not the same ones your doctor might order. They may be less extensive and therefore less useful, but as an adjunct to the test’s usefulness in genealogy, they are certainly worthwhile and have proven to be useful.]

Chapter 5. 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA Testing - How are they different and how are they the same?

Someone asked if the new autosomal testing replaces the traditional Yline and mtdna testing we've been having done within and outside of our projects at Family Tree DNA. The answer is a resounding ABSOLUTELY NOT - THIS DOES NOT REPLACE TRADITIONAL GENEALOGY TESTING!!! Don't think for a minute that it does:) Makes my heart skip a beat to even think that anyone might consider this.

Let's talk about the two types of ancestry testing and what you get with each company (and each type of testing).

Family Tree DNA specializes in testing for genealogy, meaning Yline, mitochondrial and deep ancestry. They provide great products to do this, some that are not offered by others, but also interpretative tools for each individual. Most importantly, they provide surname, haplogroup and geographic projects (and tools) that allow us to group ourselves together, to study our results and to make sense of our personal and group ancestry. Yes, I know that various other companies provide pieces and parts of this too, but FTDNA provides the largest set of tools and the largest data base and that is where all of my projects reside so that is who I'm discussing. Any other company would represent a subset of what is offered by FTDNA.

At 23andMe, you are provided with your haplogroup assignment. If you are male, you get both yline and mtdna. I don't know how they assign the yline haplogroups, but I do know that they do not test your DNA for insertions and deletions. In some cases, tiny bits of your dna drop out, which is called a deletion, and in other cases, a bit of it "cuts in line" and that is called an insertion. 23andMe tests only specific locations using chip technology, which is how they can test so much of your DNA, but it does not allow them the latitude to "look around" for insertions and deletions. When assigning mitochondrial haplogroups, this is critically important as many haplogroup assignments depend on insertions an deletions, so their mitochondrial haplogroup assignments are sometimes incorrect. Mine is incorrect which frustrates me incredibly.

Family Tree DNA on the other hand does a full sequence analysis when you purchase the Full Sequence product (FGS) and they do "look around" giving you a complete picture of your mito DNA including insertions and deletions. Their product is not only more accurate, you also get to match to others who have tested at the HVR1, 2 and full sequence levels and receive their e-mail addresses. Family Tree DNA provides us with the matching feature for results plus notification.

23andMe does not test the normal genealogy markers panels, the STRs, for yline. This means that there are no 12, 25, 37 or 67 marker values reported and these are the genealogy values we all need to determine if we are related to the "Smith line from Surry County, Virginia" as opposed to the "Smith line from Tyrrell County, North Carolina". This was and is the most important part of genetic ancestry testing and you don't get it at 23andMe. Their product offerings are different and can be used in conjunction with these tests, but have nothing to offer in this area.

Please be aware that this is not meant to be critical of either company, only to explain their differences and where both of them fit into the scheme for genealogists and when using each company is appropriate genealogically.

Family Tree DNA provides us with organized projects to compare the genealogical data as well, which is the second half of the genealogy equation, having the tools to do something with those raw results. Bless them, over and over, for this. They have also given us Ysearch, another great tool that everyone can use, meaning not just FTDNA clients, to compare your DNA.

FTDNA clients also receive important tools and information tabs including the haplotree which graphically displays info about your haplogroup, your SNPs (which are not separately reported at 23andMe in a usable fashion), migration routes, haplogroup percents, ancestral origins, and the maps. The mapping feature is often overlooked and that's sad because if people entered their oldest ancestor info and their location, it provides a great deal of "patterning" in terms of migration, especially related to haplogroups and families in Europe, but I am digressing again. I just worked on a haplogroup N1c1 project where the maps were critical to determining where the gentleman's ancestor actually came from.

Not to mention that Family Tree DNA offers their new Traits, the boutique SNP selections, the Personal Reports, upgrades, and probably other things I'm not thinking about. They also provide administrators with tools and the conference for education. These things, except for the Traits, are not offered at 23andMe, and even if they were, the sheer number of people in the Family Tree Data Base who are obviously interested in genealogy provides the perfect environment for the genealogist.

Having said that, the importance of the 23andMe testing, aside from the Health Traits which are great (and worth every penny), but not typically the primary interest of genealogists, is their foray into autosomal testing and making it relevant for genealogists. Because they are using the chip technology that allows them to test half a million locations and store those results, it also makes it doable to measure inheritance segments and translate that into degrees of relationship. Family Tree DNA does not do this today. How well 23andMe can do this remains to be seen, but that is the focus of the "new feature" project.

Again, because of the sheer number of locations tested, it allows research to correlate the values at certain DNA locations with geographic ancestral locations. This has manifested itself in the percentages of Ethnicity reported by 23andMe. 23andMe and DeCodeMe both report this percentage today for European, African and Asian, but while 23andMe has aggressively priced their products and pursued the genealogy community, DeCodeMe has not and the result is that few use their service and most use 23andMe for wide spectrum (chip) testing. Many in the US are interested in their minority ancestry, whatever that happens to be. For me, minority means Native and African. 23andMe (and DeCodeMe) both tell me IF I carry that ancestry, by percent, but not where. Based on comparisons with some of the early testing companies (DNAPrint) they are much much more accurate in their assessment than the earlier tests that measured only a few locations. However, in order to find that elusive minority ancestor, I need to return to traditional genealogy testing, yline and mtdna, with the features of matching to people, within and outside of projects, with e-mail addresses to contact. To do this, I encourage people to construct their own DNA Personal Pedigree Chart. You can see an article about how to do this at this link or I can send it to you as a pdf file. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~molcgdrg/pubs/p3.htm Be sure to check existing surname projects to see if someone from your distant lines has already tested. To do this, go to www.familytreedna.com and enter the surname in the search box in the upper right hand corner.

So when do you use which company?

For genealogy, always test your yline and mtdna using the traditional tools, join the projects at FTDNA, compare your genealogical results to others, and learn as much as you can using these tools. They are very specific and can tell you whether you are related to a particular family or person via a particular line, meaning the paternal or maternal. You also receive your deep ancestry results which are just genealogy back further in time and without last names. Deep Clade testing allows you to become very granular in terms of the timeframe of when your ancestors were where. With the advances we've made with SNP information in the past few months and years, it won't be long before the SNP timeframe meets the genealogy timeframe and in some cases, we're connecting the dots very successfully today.

The 23andMe tests are more of the "graduate class" for genealogists, aside from their Health Traits of course. I can't imagine a genealogist ever testing at 23andMe and NOT testing their yline, mtdna and comparing them to others at Family Tree DNA in their projects. Many of us want to answer questions that yline and mtdna just haven't been able to answer for us, and that's why we've turned to autosomal testing. Of course, there is also a curiosity factor, pure and simple, in terms of ethnicity and also in terms of the Health traits that may attract some folks. Many will purchase the test for the Health Traits alone whether they are interested in genealogy or not. But if they are serious genealogists, they will use the two types of testing together to achieve our ultimate goals of unraveling our ancestors.

Genetics for genealogy is truly the best tool we've ever had as genealogists, and it gets better every day.

by Roberta Estes
www.dnaexplain.com

Monday, September 14, 2009

ISOGG and NIST

There is an interesting article this week in the Plus edition of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter http://www.eogn.com. Written by Chris Pomery, a respected author in the field of genetic genealogy, it provides insight into the adaptations needed by all the testing firms to comply with new standards of reporting testing results.

Family Tree DNA has been in the forefront of this effort, and ISOGG, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, has taken the lead in working with NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

As an aside, I encourage everyone to join ISOGG www.isogg.org, which has become an international leader and focal point for all things related to genetic genealogy. Its website is chock full of interesting information and includes the respected JOGG, Journal of Genetic Genealogy, an ISOGG publication. Membership is free.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Direct to Consumer Testing Issues

Will Genetic Genealogy Lose Its Place?

A small but vocal group of scientists and legislators are clamoring for government regulation of DNA testing. A few states have already succumbed to this hysteria, and Washington has dipped its toe into the murky waters.

What does this mean to family genealogists like us? It could mean that we would have to have our family doctor submit an order for us to obtain a simple Y-DNA test. And the results would go to him or her. (Could there be a touch of self-interest on the part of the scientific and medical community?) As genealogists, how many of us would be willing to involve our personal doctor in our genealogy quest – and pay for the privilege? What does our family doctor know about genealogy, and does he care? Is he really the best qualified person to interpret results for us? Did you ever think you would have to get your family doctor to approve before you could do genealogy? It all sounds rather silly to me.

One argument in favor of such regulation is that people do not understand what they are getting when they buy a test. But isn’t this true of many things? Isn’t it up to the consumer to research and understand what he is buying? Another is that there are claims being made by some companies that promise far more than they can deliver. But this is a fact of life. It is up to the consumer to evaluate these claims.

I am proud to know that Family Tree DNA (the company I have chosen for all my DNA Projects (see links in the sidebar) is the acknowledged leader in the business of genetic genealogical testing and, in fact, was awarded the Better Business Bureau’s Award for Excellence in customer service. Its website has been designated as the "Best Cutting Edge Web Site" by Family Tree Magazine. Even more important is the fact that Family Tree DNA (and ISOGG, the International Society for Genetic Genealogy) provides references to an extensive library of books, videos and scientific journals for its customers’ edification. It has knowledgeable people on staff (as well as a full complement of scientists) who can and do answer questions in a timely manner. It is deeply involved in scientific research to find new SNPs and STRs that offer new avenues to pursue for those who are interested in both anthropology and genealogy and in getting as much as possible out of their testing experience. (SNPs are the portions of DNA that reflect deep ancestry – thousands of years ago. STRs are the markers used for genealogical purposes.)

Another service provided by FTDNA is its support for “projects.” All project members benefit from that support by having access to significantly reduced prices and special promotions that are only available through projects. Additionally, volunteer project administrators like me are provided with ongoing education so that we can better serve our clients. We seek to educate and to help explain test results so that our clients do understand what they are buying and why, and what the results mean.

While the line between genetic genealogy and genome testing for health reasons is quite sharp, the naysayers are beginning to disregard that line and lump all genetic testing together. That is a sad day for genealogists who are just now beginning to reap the solid rewards of having databases that are large enough to provide answers to sticky questions. Ever larger databases of test results help all of us learn more about our family history and answer the age-old question, “Where do we come from?”. Any disruption of the flow of new testees is a disservice to those who have already tested and to the cause of genealogy for everyone. The jury is still out regarding the viability of genetic testing for disease. Obviously, again, the size of the database is critical and our knowledge will grow only as the database grows. And, in addition to all the reasons given above, there is the simple matter of personal choice that is taken away by increased regulation.

Since the key is an educated public, here are two websites that are highly recommended: www.isogg.org and www.thegeneticgenealogist.com.

Doris Wheeler, 8 Jul 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

About Direct to Consumer Genetic Testing

There is confusion about DNA testing for medical purposes versus testing for genealogy. A very good discussion of the latter can be found at http://www.worldfamilies.net/blog/15323.

Please leave a comment or email me if you have any questions.

Regards,
Doris Wheeler