Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Family Tree DNA's 7th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy- Day Two

I am finally posting my notes from Day Two of the FTDNA Conference. I was unable to attend a couple of the lectures due to other obligations, so Tim Janzen of the Mennonite DNA Project has kindly given me permission to post his notes too, designated as [TJ].


ISOGG Meeting, Katherine Borges and Alice Fairhurst:
• On Sept 6, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Padilla Act SB 559, which adds "genetic information" as a category for which a person cannot be discriminated against in the State of California. This makes California's genetic protection laws stronger than the current federal protection under GINA. The law takes affect on January 1, 2012. Other states need to follow California's lead on this.
• ISOGG has submitted an application to speak at ASHG 2012 in San Francisco.
• The ASHG survey and the publication of academic papers supporting regulation of DTC genetic testing are concerns for ISOGG.
• ISOGG members interested in protecting the public's right to direct access to their genome should join the ISOGG email group (no money involved).
• In Memory of fellow admins Kenny Hedgpeth and David Brown (Rose Project).
• ISOGG Wiki is growing. Tom Hutchison has developed the "Create a Book" tool.
• Alice Fairhurst discussed the ISOGG Y-tree, international contributions and the addition of many new SNPs. Requests that papers on new SNPs be sent to her.
• The ISOGG Y tree is not the same as FTDNA Y-tree, however both are in concordance with the YCC (Y-Chromosome Consortium). Both trees are correct. The difference is that the ISOGG Y-tree is updated much more often (95 times this year compared to one annual update for the FTDNA Y-tree). "It is easy for ISOGG to update the tree rapidly because we are not also updating an entire customer database...The ISOGG tree is aimed at geneticists and advanced users who want to know the most up-to-date discoveries," Alice explains. "When comparing Y-DNA results, customers of FTDNA should compare using the FTDNA haplotree to make sure they are referring to the same system." [Updated for clarification - 11/10/11.]
• Academic researchers/scientists are utilizing the ISOGG Y-tree.
The ISOGG Y-DNA SNP Index has links to academic papers.

Michael Hammer discussed contributions of Neandertals and other species to our genome:
Bennett said that the purpose of this lecture is to present "in a simple way some of the genetic science that has been discovered since earlier conferences." It was fascinating!
• Humans and chimps are 98.8% identical in their DNA
• Our species had at least 15 cousins. Only we remain.
• "We (academics) have trouble keeping up with you (genetic genealogists)...After a couple of years (of attending the FTDNA conferences), you knew more than I did (re: genealogical applications of genetics)."
• Reviewed the Multi-Regional Evolution (Gene Flow) and Recent African Replacement theories.
• "We can now refute the African Replacement Theory with evidence found in the last year."
• The immunity gene STAT2 is the first clear example of interbreeding advantage. It introgressed from Neandertal and is positively selected in Melanesians.
• Neandertal + Denisovan = ~8% of modern Melanesian genome. Chr 12 introgressed in Melanesians with a Denisova-like region.
• Modern Africans contain a small portion of genetic material (~2%) that introgressed from an archaic population that split from the ancestors of AMH ~700 kya
• Distribution of 3 introgressive haplotypes on Chr 4, 18, 13 suggest recent interbreeding with a now extinct form in Africa.
• Some question whether the Denisovans are really archaic or modern with archaic DNA.
Neandertal sequence shares more variants with present day non-Africans than Africans. (Green 2010) 
• Family Finder looks at one base in many, so it is not the test to use to look for Neandertal DNA.
• Geneticists are still looking for Neandertal mtDNA and Y-DNA.
• A "psuedogene" is one that has lost its function over time. 

Dr. Michael Hammer gave an excellent summary of hominid research in regard to the paleontological record and summarized what has been discovered in terms of mtDNA, Y and autosomal DNA research, including a discussion of interbreeding between Neanderthals and humans in the Middle East and interbreeding between Denisovans and humans in SE Asia. [TJ]

Elliott Greenspan told us about the IT Roadmap:
• In 2010, FTDNA processed 250 Terabytes of matching DNA. In 2011 they have processes almost 9x more at 2.33 Petabytes.  
• Releasing a new version of personal pages- MyFTDNA 2.0, including profile pages, interactive tour, advanced matching (power search) and other features.
• FTDNA will now allow partial payments through personal page for tests on order.
• New messaging system through FTDNA site to users.
• Adding resources for learning to site, such as mtDNA and Y-DNA home pages and section pages explaining tests.
• Family Finder redesign showing more info for matches i.e.- other tests taken, saved notes, link to personal profile page, etc...
• Personal profiles will have a customizable "about me" section including haplogroups, ancestry, photos, etc...
• There will be profile links for all matches - FF, Y-DNA and mtDNA
• New advanced matching/power search combines the power of all three types of tests - will compare FF, mtDNA and Y-DNA matches for commonality.
• FTDNA will be moving to an event-based model rather than the straight genetic distance model. Palindromic matching will be taken into account - nulls, deletions, insertions will be counted as only one step.
• FTDNA will display micro-alleles in GAP charts and incorporate them into matching. For all who have tested since 2001, the micro-alleles have been recorded at Michael Hammer's lab and will now be reported.
• The "in common with" feature on Family Finder is only allowed with confirmed relationships due to privacy concerns.
• Admins will be testing out the new MyFTDNA 2.0 on Tuesday, before users have access.
• FTDNA will handle no-calls from 23andMe v3 uploads the same way as FTDNA's (ignore them).
• Next update of the FTDNA SNP Tree will be March 2012.
• Build 37 will have new SNPs and fewer false positions. 
STR values will adhere to the NIST standards as of the next update. [TJ]
• FTDNA's IT staff is open to ideas for phone and tablet apps.
The Illumina autosomal data for people who have done the Family Finder test will include about 3000 more SNPs in the next update after the conversion to Build 37 of the Human Reference Sequence. Family Finder will also have an advanced matching feature in which you can look for FF matches who also are mtDNA or Y STR matches with you. [TJ]
• FTDNA will not be supporting a single sign-in for multiple kits for now. They hope to do so in the coming year. 
• According to Michael Hammer, the likelihood of a genealogical relationship for a "match" with differences beyond seven in a 67 marker Y-DNA test are too small to allow 60/67 matches to show on user pages.
• There will be discounted prices for 23andMe v2 customers who would like to purchase Family Finder.
• Full sequence mtDNA uploads from other companies will not be allowed to be transferred into FTDNA at this time due to potential pollution of the database. FTDNA wants to "protect the integrity" of their database. They will consider it in the future if they can do cross-checks to assure that the transferred data is of good quality.

Peter Biggins and the DNA of the Three Collas:
Peter gave a thorough review of the FTDNA Clan CollaNull 425 Project. This clan is thought to have descended from the 3 Colla brothers who lived ca 400 AD in Ireland. There are quite a few different Irish surnames in this group. All members of this project are R-L21+ and every member who has tested has also been discovered to be R-DF21+. [TJ]

Jessica Roberts, JD discussed potential legal uses of DNA for immigration and refugee/asylum claims. (I am not going to post my notes because I don't feel they are relevant to the genetic genealogy community's interests.)

Steven Morse spoke some more about his One-Step Webpages, including those on DNA.

Dick Hill, the DNA Testing Adviser, regaled us with tales from his "Adoptee's Journey to His Ancestral Surname" and described the different DNA tests he utilized in his search:
• During the introduction Max stated that 30%-40% of male adoptees find their likely surname in FTDNA's database. 
• Dick recommends that adoptees do a Family Finder test rather than a siblingship test.   
• Dick Hill gave a heartwarming presentation describing how he discovered the identity of his biological parents over a period of many years. A combination of Y-DNA and autosomal DNA testing helped him prove that his biological father was a Mr. Doug Richards. [TJ]

Dick's presentation was funny, informative, well-delivered and thoroughly enjoyable. I won't ruin it for you by posting my notes. Consider inviting him to speak about DNA testing at your local family history group. He can be contacted through his website linked above.

Closing Panel:
FTDNA doesn't have any plans to incorporate 23andMe's mtDNA or Y chromosome SNP data into their database at this time. [TJ]
• FTDNA doesn't have plans in the immediate future to upgrade Ysearch so that it will allow the display of 111 markers. Ysearch is currently a lower priority item for FTDNA. [TJ]
• Bennett Greenspan mentioned that FTDNA is working on developing an X chromosome browser. [TJ]
• Upcoming holiday sale at FTDNA. Watch for it here!

Thanks to FTDNA and all of their wonderful project administrators, it was an enjoyable, informative and exhausting weekend. I can't wait for next year. I hope to see you all there!

*If you haven't read about Day One, you can find it here.

[Disclosure - my company StudioINTV has an existing production agreement with FTDNA that has no bearing on the opinions I express. I also receive a small commission from FTDNA on non-sale orders through my affiliate link, which I use to fund DNA tests. I receive no other compensation in relation to any of the companies or products referenced in my blog.] 


  1. Thanks for the great updates. Any word on whether sales will happen Black Friday or later for FTDNA 23andme or others?

  2. FTDNA said at the conference that they will have a sale soon, possibly before the holidays. 23andMe has not said anything in regard to sales, but I would imagine they will continue the tradition of their Thanksgiving week sale. I will announce any sales here as soon as they happen.
    Thanks for the comment, Kelly.

  3. Elliott Greenspan told that next update of the FTDNA SNP Tree will be March 2012. Any news about this ?