Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting a Handle on Genetic Genealogy

The Genetic Genealogist Blog may be of interest to those who would like more information about the relationship of genetic testing and genealogy research. On his About page, the author explains the four types of genealogical DNA testing and his approach to the subject. The blog may be great place for keeping up with what's new in the field and what's being talked about. The blog this week compares the types of DNA testing done on a recent episode of the "Faces of America" program, currently airing on PBS. It's a chance, perhaps, to gain a greater understanding and know more about what's possible as this exciting new field expands.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

African-American DNA research highligthed

February is Black HIstory Month, and it is no secret to African-Americans with a heritage dating back to the slave era that genealogy research is challenging, at best. A recent article on, "Family Trees: African-Americans find it difficult to trace history," outlines some of the main issues, and highlights DNA research, perhaps, of the greatest breakthroughs for African-Americans. For more on the subject, see author's complete interview with Dr. Rick Kittles, Scientific Director of African Ancestry, at African-Ancestry, Inc. and Associate Professor, The University of Chicago, Department of Medicine.

A couple of resources that might be of interest to researchers include, African Heritage Project and African-American Genealogy Blogs.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Genealogy Magazines Offer Valuable Insight

An article on, "Genealogy Magazine takes on genetics," provides an in-depth review of the  Family Tree Magazine December 2009 issue and it's theme, "Complete Guide to Genetic Genealogy," as the article says, "an ambitious claim." The article highlights one article in particular, "DNA Fact or Science Fiction,"and follows up with a number of useful links and additional information on vaccinations over the years.

Watch for end-of-year specials. This time of year, many of the popular genealogy magazines are offering their complete 2009 editions on CD, with searchable content -- a good way to catch up on valuable content you might have missed.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Free e-book explains DNA basics

A recent article on, "Genealogy 101: I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What," highlights an e-book (published in 2008) by Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph..D., author of The Genetic Genealogist, with a link to a FREE download. The book is useful, not only as a practical guide to Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, but also provides information to help you find what DNA studies have been performed, and how and where to find various DNA and Surname groups.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Heads Up! "The Human Family Tree" film airs August 30

If you have not yet submitted your DNA to the National Geographic, Genographic Project, a new film, "The Human Family Tree," airing August 30 might inspire to do so. For those who are not familiar, the Project is a a five-year research  partnership led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells, aimed at studying the migratory history of the human species through DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world -- everyday people like you and me. The film provides insight into how the Project works and what can be learned: "On a single day on a single street, with the DNA of just a couple of hundred random people, National Geographic Channel sets out to trace the ancestral footsteps of all humanity." To learn more, visit The Human Family Tree web site. The site offers a convenient Time Zone button to indicate when the film will air in your area. 

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Getting Past the Native Ancestry Block: Can DNA Testing Break Through the Wall?

Proving native ancestry in North America is more than a little challenging, for a great many reasons. Today, DNA testing can help address some of the questions, but not as completely as one might hope. In her article, "Getting Past the Native Ancestry Block: Can DNA Testing Break Through the Wall?," Rita Marshall explores the various DNA tests, what they can and cannot tell us about our native ancestry, and how to proceed with what we learn.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Beyond the Paper Trail: Discovering Family History with Different DNA Tests

Molecular genealogy, the study of DNA to help genealogical research, has made big strides over the last few years, but some answers are still out of science's reach. Learn what you can and can't learn from the different genetic tests, and which ones may be right for you. In this her first article, "Beyond the Paper Trail: Discovering Family History with Different DNA Tests," Rita Marshall queries experts in the field and brings us up to date on this exciting and promising new branch of genealogical research.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Heritage teams with FamilyTree DNA

MyHeritage, the genealogy social networking web site, is offering users a "cheek scraper" DNA test for under £100, as reported recently in the Guardian (UK). The site is teaming up with FamilyTreeDNA to help identify living relatives with common ancestors. According to the article, Israeli-based MyHeritage's 27 million registered members, who are mostly in the English-speaking world, use the site to document their family trees and research missing connections or relatives.

A Y-chromosome test identifies paternal descent, while a mitochondrial DNA test shows the maternal line, and both cost $129 (£87). A combined test, for men, is $219. The DNA test can identify if a member has Native American, African or Jewish ancestors and trace relatives to a migration map of the US, the article says. Both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA are "keen to emphasise" that records are not shared or published and are held securely.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Group offers DNA guidelines

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has asked the question, "How accurate is your family tree," questioning the accuracy of modern DNA testing, as reported in Science Magazine. According to the article, there is a building concern among geneticists and others that the tests performed, both by companies and in academic labs, may not be very accurate, largely because they match samples to "reference" populations of a particular ancestor who may or may not perfectly fit the desired profile. Although not mentioned in the article, one high profile case that comes to mind is that of talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, who stated in 2005 that DNA testing proved her to be of the Zulu tribe. However, research and further testing done as part of Winfrey's participation in the television show, "African American Lives," showed otherwise.

"Even in the best databases that exist today, we know we have only a small sampling of human genetic diversity," says Michael Bamshad, who studies genetic variation at the University of Washington, Seattle.

At its annual meeting, a 10-person ASHG committee released five recommendations that aim to bring more accuracy, oversight, and collaboration to commercial and academic ancestry testing efforts. But it's unclear what effect the recommendations will have.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008 announces new genetics partnership

In a recent press release, announced its partnership with 23andMe, a personal genetics service. According to the report, the 23andMe Personal Genome Service(TM) provides "unprecedented," individual access to genetic information, including deep ancestry analysis developed by the 23andMe science team. Users of the DNA service will now have access to the same ancestral content available through the 23andMe website, designed to give people a deeper understanding of their past.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

DNA Refresher, Part 2

In this second article, "Genetic Genealogy and Family Tree Research, Part 2," Teresa Hilburn completes her discussion on the use of DNA testing in genealogy, and discusses the National Geographic Worldwide Genographic DNA Project, and her own experiences with DNA testing. While it may not answer all research questions, modern DNA research is fascinating.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

DNA Refresher, Part 1

For those not entirely familiar with the details of DNA testing relative to family history research or those interested in a refresher, Teresa Hilburn's article, "Genetic Genealogy & Family Tree Research, Part 1," aims at providing the basics in simple terms. The article identifies the purposes of the two types of DNA tests available, who qualifies for each type testing, and why. The article also makes clear that DNA testing is a non-invasive procedure, explores the cost, and gives tips on selecting a DNA testing company.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Using DNA to Find Your Surname

For those who are adopted, finding their family tree has always been a challenge. Records may be sealed, hidden, on non-existent. Until now, very few resources were available to help adoptees find their genealogical roots. In her article, "Using DNA to Find Your Surname," Melissa Slate discusses the latest DNA technology and how the Y-Chromosome DNA test can help adoptees identify their paternal surname, which puts them one step closer to identifying their biological roots.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

DNA research focus of Pennsylvania seminar

Plan ahead. The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania has announced its full day program featuring nationally recognized experts in the field of genetics and DNA technology as applied to genealogical research. Speakers will include: Bennett Greenspan, President and CEO of Family Tree DNA; Thomas H. Shawker, M.D.; and others. The event will be held Saturday, April 26 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Thomas Jefferson University, Brent Auditorium, Jefferson Alumni Hall, 1020 Locust St., Philadelphia. Registration Fee is $75 (includes lunch buffet). See for details and online registration

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

New approach to interpreting African American DNA

If you watched the PBS miniseries, "African American Lives," you are familiar with its host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard University professor. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, "Harvard's Gates Refines Genetic-Ancestry Searches for Blacks," explores Gates new venture, emphasizing DNA research is not yet a perfect science.

The article notes, In 2005, Dr. Gates, an African-American Studies scholar, had his DNA tested again and was told by another commercial genealogy service that his maternal lineage didn't track to Egypt, or even to Africa. Instead, it went back to a European in colonial America, who historians believe was a white indentured servant . . . the second version of Dr. Gates's lineage turned out to be the right one. But the mistakes made by the burgeoning genetic-ancestry industry have continued -- prompting Dr. Gates to start his own DNA-tracing company, one that he says will be able to take a more refined look at African-American ancestry. Dr. Gates's new company, African DNA LLC, aims to use historians and anthropologists to explain which of various genetic possibilities prompted by DNA traces is more historically likely.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

SMGF partners to expand Central Asia DNA collection

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) and the International University of Kyrgyzstan (IUK), in a press release today reported significant progress in their collaborative research partnership to study genetic genealogies, migration and demographic patterns of Kyrgyzstan's various populations.

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked Central Asian country characterized by dramatic, rugged mountain terrain and strong nomadic traditions. Despite a relatively small population (just over 5.2 million in 2006), the country contains a wide variety of ethnic groups, with a large number of primary languages. While approximately 65 percent of the population is comprised of indigenous Kyrgyz residents, more than 13 percent of residents have Uzbek ancestry, and 12.5 percent of residents are of Russian descent - a reminder of the fact that Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864. The country achieved independence from the then-Soviet Union in 1991.

The Kyrgyzstan project is a major addition to SMGF's Central Asia collections. In September 2007, SMGF partnered with the National University of Mongolia to complete the largest DNA collection in the history of Mongolia. For more information about SMGF's DNA collections throughout the world, visit

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Family Tree DNA introduces latest innovations

According to a recent press release, Family Tree DNA, at its 4th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy, announced the launch of the first comparative database for Full Mitochondria Sequences; the introduction of MyMaps, the world’s first personalized interactive genetic mapping system; and the novel “A Walk Through the Y Chromosome” test that allows participants to map genetic relationships through the male-inherited Y Chromosome. These represent bellwether innovations that pair the science of genetic testing and the world of genetic genealogy with the computer technology that makes worldwide networking a family affair. To learn more about Family Tree DNA and its services, or contact or 713-868-1438.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Using DNA to create a global family tree

GeneTree, a new genealogy site launched this week, adds a new twist to online family history searches by allowing users to submit their own DNA and to collaborate with others using social networking tools. The new site is being launched by several companies owned by Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Cos., including Sorenson Media Inc. and the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF), which operates a genetic database that contains DNA samples from 80,000 people in 170 countries, as noted in a Computerworld article, "Genealogy site uses DNA and social networks to trace ancestors."

Another article in AppScout, "GeneTree: Using DNA to Create a Global Family Tree," observes GeneTree is a whole new idea: It maps how everyone on Earth is related to one another, not based entirely on research and historical documents but based on DNA. . . . But the service is only as good as its database of genetic information. . . . so before it can help you answer the big questions about how you're related to your ancestors in Africa or Europe, its database of DNA information will have to grow significantly. In the meantime, you can use the service as a genealogy service and ancestry site.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Middle East DNA testing links to deep ancestry wall chart in Arabic

Announced in a press release yesterday,, offering Family Ancestry testing in the Middle East is now set to launch new wall chart in Arabic. Eastern Biotech & Life Sciences is set to launch a new Wall Chart of DNA Ancestry services to the people of the Middle East to help them invent their deep ancestors from 150,000 years ago. The roots of this tree lie more than 100,000 years in the past, at a time when our hunter-gatherer ancestors were living in Africa. As the branches of the tree multiply, they record the history of our species and the dramatic stories of how pioneering groups of humans explored and populated our planet. The different journeys they made shaped the world we know today.

From a simple mouth swab customers can identify key genetic markers within thier unique DNA. “By comparing these markers with genetic information taken from thousands of men and women living all across the world, we can reveal how your personal family history is descended from these epic events”, said Eng. Aida Omar, Marketing Executive of Eastern Biotech & Life Sciences.

DNA forms an unbroken chain from generation to generation, connecting you to your ancestors some 150,000 years ago, around 7,000 generations back. “Your DNA is passed from both of your parents. That is the reason we offer two paths (Paternal & Maternal) to construct your wallchart” said Eng. Aida Omar.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Ancestry DNA service in Beta

Not to be outdone, has launched a beta version of its new DNA Ancestry service, according to an article on Currently the service offers three genealogical tests, two Paternal Lineage tests (Y chromosome 33 marker and Y chromosome 46 marker), and a Maternal Lineage Test. Prices range from $149-$199, depending on the test, as reported on If you've already had your DNA tested with another company, DNA Ancestry has a function that will let users add their test results to the DNA Ancestry database and allow them to connect with others who share their DNA.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kudos to SMGF web site

Announced this week, Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF), a non-profit scientific organization, has been named by Family Tree magazine to its annual list of the 101 best family history Web sites in the Sept. 2007 issue. The free, online SMGF database ( is unique because it can link an individual’s genetic profile to specific ancestors by name going back a half-dozen generations and further.

Any individual can query the SMGF database for genetic-genealogy information for free by obtaining his or her DNA profile from a commercial genomics laboratory and then entering the results into the Web site’s database search menu. A DNA sample is usually taken with a simple swab of the inside of the consumer’s cheek. For those who wish to contribute their records to the foundation’s database, the process is free, convenient and confidential. Simply request a kit on the SMGF Web site and then submit a DNA sample and an accompanying four-generation pedigree chart. As SMGF’s free database grows, personal genealogy success stories become more frequent.

For those who are still a little fuzzy on all this DNA stuff, the Sorenson web site also provides a great teaching tool, helping the lay person understand how it works. The site provides information to help you learn as little or a much as you care to know, from the very general, Understanding DNA to the specifics on Y-Chromosome DNA and Mitochondrial DNA, plus a heads-up for the new kid on the block, Autosomal DNA -- where did you get those big brown eyes?

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Friday, June 22, 2007

DNA testing offered as part of Family Restoration Roundtable

In a press release yesterday, Diversity Restoration Solutions and Slave Descendants Freedom Society announced they have partnered with Family Tree DNA, the largest DNA company in the field of genetic genealogy, to offer attendees of the Family Restoration Roundtable Educational Seminar series an opportunity to test their DNA for ancestral origins. The seminar series focuses on reconnecting families from the African Diaspora through the use of genealogy and history.

In addition to offering DNA testing with Family Tree DNA, the DRS and SDFS seminar series entitled "Restoring African American Families Using Genealogy and History" will examine and discuss a number of topics, including Transatlantic slave trade and slavery in America; The importance of African American family genealogy as it relates to slavery; 13 steps to restoring a family with genealogy and history; and Cultural and business opportunities in Africa, with The Gambia as the gateway.

The seminar series will be held in more than 50 cities in the United States and abroad into 2008. For more information, visit or call (757) 238-7790.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New partnership integrates DNA and genealogy databases

As announced Monday, two Utah companies, and Sorensen Genomics, are partnering to launch a DNA testing product by the end of summer. For less than $200 and a cheek swab, people looking for their ancestors can add DNA results to family history Web sites. The joint venture will allow customers the possibility of finding DNA matches on across Ancestry's 24,000 databases. An article today in Gizmag, " to offer DNA Genealogy," discusses at length the benefits of the collaboration to researchers and corporate partners alike.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

National Black Arts Festival spotlights DNA technology

From July 20 thru 29, the world is set to descend upon Atlanta for the 19th annual National Black Arts Festival (NBAF). The 10-day summer festival -- packed with music, theatre, visual arts, dance, spoken word, film and family events -- offers something for everyone without regard to race, age or ethnicity, according to an article on This year NBAF asks the question "Who are you?" as it spotlights DNA technology and encourages festival-goers to trace ancestry to their African origins.

The DNA spotlight also extends to a landmark presentation certain to spark dialogue. NBAF and will team up to test the DNA of an unprecedented number of people during this Festival, beginning with a select group of notable Atlanta politicians, civil rights leaders, clergy, entertainers, entrepreneurs and sports figures. The results will be revealed in July.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chicago schools participate in Genographic Project

An article at, Chicago 10th-graders trace ancestry through DNA, reports one-thousand students from five Chicago high schools and their sister-city schools abroad will contribute DNA samples to the nonprofit Genographic Project. Chicago is the first school district to participate in the project. Contributions are voluntary, kids need parental consent and results are anonymous. The Genographic Project, is a five-year study that seeks to map humanity’s ancient migrations. The project has run aground in Alaska and elsewhere among native tribes fearing the analysis could confuse long-held spiritual beliefs and possibly jeopardize existing benefits for some natives, as reported in a New York Times, Dec. 10 article.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Combined resources still the best best in confirming family history

In his article, DNA Surprises, Alan Smith makes the point that for all its benefit, DNA testing has its limitations and historical research is still needed to fit all the pieces together. Reviewing the well-known Thomas Jefferson DNA study, Smith explores a similar inquiry in his own family history and the inherent challenges of researching two-hundred-year-old mysteries.

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