Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Family Tree DNA Offers Reduced Price Family Finder Tests

Check your inbox! Family Tree DNA just sent out an email to their customers offering the autosomal DNA Family Finder test for only $179 (regularly $289). A one-time use code is necessary. If you are a customer and did not receive one, check your spam filter. I have a few extras, so write to me if you need one. (Update 6/8/12 - Thanks to many kind donors, I have lots of codes now! Since I am at Jamboree, please see the comments for available codes.)

The official email follows:


 Dear Family Tree DNA Customer,

We have you to thank for the tremendous success of the Family Finder product that launched in early 2010. Since that day some 10's of thousands of individuals have tested seeking answers to their genealogical questions. Children have found parents and half-siblings have randomly ‘found’ each other within the database. Family Tree DNA is proud to have played a part in those wonderful reunions. In an effort to thank each of you for your participation (which makes these matches possible), we are offering a one-time use coupon for you to share with any individual that you believe would like to order the Family Finder at $179. Simply copy and share the coupon code.


Your coupon code is XXXXX, we appreciate your past participation and invite you to share it with a friend or family member.  

Special Note: Coupon code has a firm expiration date of June 10th 2012 and is good for one use only.
Offer only valid for credit card payments. Enter the coupon code during the checkout process to purchase at the promotional price.

Best regards,

Bennett Greenspan

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I Found My Third Cousin Today at 23andMe!

(I wrote this on 5/18, but hadn't gotten a chance to post it yet.)

Over on the Rootsweb Autosomal DNA List a debate is raging in regard to the chances of randomly matching an actual third cousin in the autosomal DNA databases at 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. Some feel that this is extremely unlikely and a number of our top atDNA genetic genealogists are weighing in on the subject. I have been following this intriguing discussion for a couple of days now and hoping that the astronomical odds quoted are overly pessimistic. With this is mind, I was especially excited to randomly discover and confirm an actual third cousin match today from 23andMe's Relative Finder.

Honestly, I am so busy helping other people with their autosomal DNA research that I rarely have time for my own. However, today I was quickly scanning my paternal uncle's new Relative Finder matches and I saw a predicted 2nd-3rd cousin.

Happily, this cousin accepted my invitation to compare our DNA and told me that he had the Moore surname in his family tree. When I looked up his unusual name on Facebook, I found that we had a mutual friend - the wife of my third cousin once removed through my Moore great great grandparents. She quickly filled me in on my match's genealogy and I discovered that we are, indeed, third cousins sharing our mutual great great grandparents Calvin and Mary/Martha (Armstrong) Moore. Of course, we don't share that much DNA at that level, only .43% of our DNA matches each other (3rd cousins would be expected to share about .781%). My sisters are also well below the expected amount at .52% and .30% and my second cousin from this line shares only .31% with him. My father's two siblings who are his second cousins once removed share 1.13% and .93% (expected ~1.563%). These numbers are a little lower than expected, but this isn't altogether surprising since autosomal DNA inheritance is so random and, especially after the second cousin level, I have found it to be pretty inconsistent. Regardless, the prediction by 23andMe was right on.

Since I don't share that much DNA with this third cousin, it was fairly easy to overlook him in my match list:
As you can see, I hadn't even sent him an invitation. The fact that I had an actual third cousin hiding in my match list, parading as "nothing special", gives me hope. So, please don't give up on autosomal DNA matching. I believe that our cousins are there just waiting to be found. If you can - test your parents, their siblings and your grandparents if you are lucky enough. If I didn't have my uncle's DNA in the database, in my haste, I probably would have overlooked this promising match and missed out on adding these three segments to my chromosome map.

Given this opportunity, let's look a little closer at my family comparisons with this cousin. The chart below graphically illustrates the DNA that my sisters and I share with our 3rd cousin. Each gray bar represents a pair of chromosomes. The colored bands represent where each of my sisters and I have a matching segment of DNA with our cousin. As you can see, my sisters and I each inherited unique patterns of our great great grandparents' DNA. Much of the shared DNA is on Chromosome 8, especially at the end where all three of us inherited the same small DNA segment from our Moore 2nd great grandparents.

Third Cousin Comparisons - Click to enlarge

Now, let's look at the inheritance pattern of two second cousins once removed.  This graph shows the areas where my dad's siblings match this Moore cousin. They share twice as many segments as two of us third cousins and three times as many as my sister who has the least DNA in common with them. Notice again, how little overlap there is between the two and that there is very little matching on Chromosome 8. This means that my dad's inheritance pattern was equally as unique since we sisters all show considerable matching on that specific chromosome with our Moore cousin.

2nd Cousin Once Removed Comparisons - Click to enlarge

Next, we can see that our second cousin (also a third cousin to this newly discovered Moore cousin) inherited completely different DNA from our shared 2nd great grandparents than my sister and I. Also, she only has two segments in common with him (light blue), but one is larger than any of those my sisters and I share with him. Her overall sharing is lower at only 23 cM versus 32 cM for me and 39 cM for my sister.  She is more in line with my other sister (not shown here) who only shares two segments and 22 cM with this cousin.

More Third Cousin Comparisons (Click to Enlarge)

As I have explained before, I tested my father's siblings since he is deceased, hoping to be able to use them as a proxy for his DNA. Since siblings only share an average of 50% of the DNA, you can see this plan does not always work out. My uncle (dark blue) shares almost completely different DNA with this cousin than my sister and I do.  The only commonality with this "new" Moore cousin lies on Chromosome 11 between my uncle and sister (illustrated by light blue and dark blue bars).

One 2nd Cousin Once Removed versus Two 3rd Cousin Comparisons

The same thing holds true for my paternal aunt (dark blue bars below). You can see all three of us match this cousin only on a small segment on Chromosome 8 (stacked colored bars). Since the dark blue on the chart below does not overlap any of the other DNA matches that my sister and I have with our Moore cousin, it is evident that my father's pattern of inheritance from these specific ancestors was quite diverse from that of both of his siblings.

Another 2nd Cousin Once Removed versus Two 3rd Cousin Comparisons

Since Calvin and Mary Moore are the sole common ancestors shared with this newly discovered cousin, then we can deduce that all of the shared DNA in those charts above originates with them. For me this means that this specific DNA is inherited from their son Willard Calvin Moore, my great grandfather. I can now identify these three little spots - one on Chromosome 1 and two on Chromosome 8 - as a gift from Willard to me.

Willard Calvin Moore (1877 - 1934)

[**Update - I have been receiving lots of inquiries about Mary "Martha" Armstrong Moore, so I will post her basics here. She was born on 2 May 1836 in Newport, Ontario, Canada to recent English immigrants Thomas and Dorothy (Hudspith) Armstrong from Northumberland, England. Mary had 13 siblings. She married Calvin Benjamin Moore in Ontario in 1854 and shortly thereafter moved to Michigan where she had, at least, eight children before dying in 1878 of consumption when my great grandfather Willard was only one year old. I would love to find an Armstrong cousin, so if this sounds familiar, please drop me a line!]

Monday, May 21, 2012

"Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." - DNA in the Tenth Episode

Last night, the final episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. featured Michelle Rodriguez, Adrian Grenier and Linda Chavez. Although the three guests share Spanish Colonial ancestors, Dr. Gates noted that it is interesting that these celebrities who have such similar family trees each have a different view of their own identities: self-identifying as mixed-European, Native American and Hispanic. I was pleased to see that Dr. Gates "turned to two of America's top genetic research firms, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe" to assist in exploring their multiracial ancestries.

Exploring multiracial ancestries on "Finding Your Roots"

In the DNA portion's introductory voiceover (starting at 44:50), Dr. Gates explains, "DNA Analysis can tell us many things about our families, from where our earliest ancestors originated tens of thousands of years ago, to their ethnic and geographical distributions over the last five hundred years." In the first part of this statement, he is referring to the deep ancestry revealed through our Y-chromosome DNA and mitochodrial DNA haplogroups and, in the latter, to our admixture results like 23andMe's Ancestry Painting and FTDNA's Population Finder. In this episode, Dr. Gate's team utilizes both to find and confirm evidence of  the guests' ancestry.

Linda Chavez' Population Finder chart from FTDNA

For Linda, who considers herself a mix of European, there was a very interesting surprise. DNA admixture results support suggestions from early paper records and memories of symbolic traditions that Linda's family from New Mexico were likely part of the Crypto-Jewish community. Her Population Finder pie chart from Family Tree DNA reveals that she possesses 73.31% European, 5.82% Native American and 20.87% Middle Eastern ancestry.  Dr. Gates explained to her, "According to our researchers - the geneticists - your Middle Eastern result is strongly suggestive of Semitic or Jewish ancestry." Linda was surprised at just how much Jewish ancestry she appears to have. Prior to this type of DNA testing, she would have never known how significant this part of her ancestry really is.

New Mexico's Crypto-Jewish roots

Adrian had grown up strongly identifying with Native American culture, but the genealogy research of Dr. Gates' team had raised some questions about his claim of significant Native American ancestry. Adrian's eyes lit up with pride when his direct maternal line's Native American descent was confirmed by his mitochondrial haplogroup C12b. (A person can discover his or her mtDNA haplogroup by taking either a 23andMe test or Family Tree DNA's mtDNAPlus test.) 

Adrian beamed with pride when learning about his Native mtDNA

Dr. Gates explained that "C1b2 is recognized as one of the four haplogroups found among Native Americans." I think he is referring to mtDNA haplogroups A, B, C and D, but this statement is a bit of an oversimplification, especially since sub-haplogroups of X have also been found exclusively in Native Americans. The 2008 academic article The Phylogeny of the Four Pan-American MtDNA Haplogroups states:

As for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), it has been clear, since the early nineties, that mtDNAs of Native Americans could be traced back to four major haplogroups of Asian origin shared by North, Central and South American populations [3][7]. These were initially named A, B, C and D, and are now termed A2, B2, C1 and D1 [8]. Afterwards, a fifth haplogroup – now known as X2a – was described in Native Americans, but in contrast to the four “pan-American” haplogroups, its geographic distribution is restricted to some Amerindian populations of northern North America [8][12]. Later, two more haplogroups – D2a and D3 – were identified: D2a in the Aleuts and Eskimos [13], [14] and D3 only in the Eskimos [15], [16]. Most recently there were two further (uncommon) additions – D4h3 and C4c [14], [17] – bringing the total number of Native American haplogroups to nine.

Adrian looking at the frequency map of his C1b2 mtDNA

Dr. Gates stated that Adrian's admixture percentage for Native American was not "especially large", however from working with many people who have oral traditions of Native American ancestry, I felt that his 8.44% Native American was relatively significant, as Dr. Gates said "the equivalent of one great grandparent". (A great grandparent would be expected to contribute an average of about 12.5% of your DNA.)

Adrian's admixture results reveal 8.44% Native American

The fact that his results revealed 91.56% European DNA appears to support Dr. Gates' contention that the majority of the ancestral mixing between Natives and Spaniards took place early in Colonial times and was short lived. However, we must not forget that Adrian's father, John Dunbar, is primarily of Northern European ancestry, so his mother most likely has significant Native American ancestry, probably about 17%. (The admixture test used is 23andMe's Ancestry Painting or Family Tree DNA's Population Finder which is included with their Family Finder product.)

Next, Michelle Rodriguez was "appalled" to discover that she is primarily European - 72.4%.

Michelle learning that she is genetically primarily European

Her admixture results also revealed what seemed to be a more welcome surprise - 21.3% African.

Michelle's admixture result reveal substantial African ancestry

She was very disappointed to learn that she only possesses 6.3% Native American exclaiming, "I wanted to be Native American!" From my experience, she joins many Americans in this often repeated desire. As Adrian expressed at the end of the episode, DNA testing can be a life-altering experience, sometimes leading one to reinterpret their self-identity. He said that it would definitely change how he sees himself and how he represents his ancestry to others in the future.

Sadly, this brings us to the end of Dr. Gates' miniseries. I have been disheartened that both of the genealogy series aired their last episode this weekend, so I was extremely pleased to hear Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems interview with Dr. Gates (33:00) where he discusses the fact that his team is already in pre-production for the next season of this series. Please hurry up, Dr. Gates, I can hardly wait!

Let's not forget that we all have the continuing opportunity to discover more about ourselves through genetic genealogy. I encourage you to start or continue this fascinating journey. Now that the show is over, I will have a chance to write more about my own DNA research. I hope you will keep reading.

I have been writing a review of the DNA testing used in each episode:
Week 1- Episode 1 & Episode 2 - Harry Connick Jr. & Branford Marsalis; Cory A. Booker & John Lewis
Week 2- Episode 3 - Barbara Walters & Geoffrey Canada

Week 3- Episode 4 - Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick
Week 4- Episode 5 -  Rick Warren, Angela Buchdahl & Yasir Qadhi
Week 5- Episode 6 - Robert Downey, Jr. & Maggie Gyllenhaal 
Week 6 - Episode 7 - Condoleezza Rice, Samuel L. Jackson & Ruth Simmons 
Week 7 - Episode 8 - Martha Stewart, Margaret Cho & Dr. Sanjay Gupta 
Week 8 - Episode 9 - Wanda Sykes, John Legend & Margarett Cooper

Mocavo is Wrong: 23andMe is not Partnering with AncestryDNA

On Sunday Mocavo sent out their email newsletter featuring an article, Ancestry.com Announces New AncestryDNA Service by Michael J. Leclerc, which contains a serious error. The first sentence of the second paragraph reads, "Partnering with 23andMe, AncestryDNA offers testing on all of your chromosomes, including the autosomal." On the heels of AncestryDNA's acquisition of Sorenson's DNA database, it is not surprising that this inaccuracy has resulted in much consternation among the genetic genealogy community today.

Public Relations Manager at 23andMe, Catherine Afarian sets the record straight, "While we have worked with Ancestry.com in the past, our partnership officially ended in 2010 and 23andMe is not affiliated or associated with AncestryDNA's current service offerings in any way." She goes on to reassure, "23andMe holds the trust of our community in the highest regard. 23andMe does not share an individual's data without their explicit consent." 

This press release from 2008 references the former relationship between the two companies. In practice, it amounted to little more than a free 23andMe demo account offered to Ancestry.com DNA customers.

Hopefully, Mocavo will issue a clarification to its subscribers on Monday, but in the meantime, I wanted to set the record straight to alleviate the understandable concern of many 23andMe customers and the community in general . 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mixed Roots Foundation Raffling 23andMe and Family Tree DNA Kits Tomorrow

The non-profit Mixed Roots Foundation is sponsoring an Adoptee Comedy Show on May 21st - this Monday night - in San Francisco. As part of their raffle, they are including two Family Tree DNA kits and three 23andMe kits. These kits were generously donated by the respective companies. Anyone can participate and you don't have to be present to win. A portion of the proceeds from this raffle will benefit the Filling in the GAGP Fund which will help to offset the costs of DNA testing for adoptees.

Raffle Items:
-2 DNA Testing Kits from Family Tree DNA
-3 DNA Testing Kits from 23andMe
-6 Jeff Dunham Merchandise (3 Puppets/Dolls, 3 T-Shirts)
-2 Pair of SF Giants Adoptee Night Tickets
-1 Yoga Month Pass
-1 Stella & Dot Gift Basket

Steps to Participate:
1.     LIKE Mixed Roots Foundation on Facebook

2.     Donate - $2 for 1 Ticket
                     $5 for 3 Tickets

3.     Email events@mixedrootsfoundation.org with
Name, Number of Tickets and Phone Number

The deadline to purchase raffle tickets is 5pm PST on May 21, 2012.
You can watch the show live tomorrow night here.
Good luck!

**Update - Winners Announced!

[Full disclosure - I am a new member of the Mixed Roots Foundation Advisory Board and have been appointed the Co-director of the new Global Adoptee Genealogy Project with Richard Hill.]

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." - DNA in the Ninth Episode

The ninth episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. featuring comedian Wanda Sykes, musician John Legend and 98-year old Margarett Cooper aired last night. Unfortunately, this was the shortest DNA segment of any episode so far (starting at 48:30), clocking just under two minutes. I have to admit that even without much genetic genealogy, I really enjoyed the thorough research tracing all three of these African Americans' family trees to their free ancestors of color. That was some outstanding genealogy work!

Although the genetic genealogy that was discussed in the episode was squeezed into a very small segment, I thought the explanations offered were very clear, so I will quote some of Dr. Gates' words here. In order to trace some of the guests' African ancestry back to its origin in Africa, the show used the company African Ancestry again. African Ancestry performs only Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests, so keep in mind that they are only examining the direct paternal and/or direct maternal ancestral lines.

The paths of Y-DNA (in black) and mtDNA (in red) in our family trees

Dr. Gates explains, "Fathers pass on exact copies of their Y-DNA to each of their sons and mothers pass on replicas of their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children." This means that the Y-DNA follows only the direct male line because fathers pass their Y-chromosome only to their sons. Conversely, mtDNA follows only the direct maternal line because only women pass their mitochondrial DNA on to their children. For example, if you are a female and have a brother, you share the same mtDNA that was inherited from your mother, but only you will pass it to your children, while your brother's children will receive their mother's mtDNA instead of his. (One caveat to Dr. Gates' statement is that both Y-DNA and mtDNA occasionally mutate, so they are not always "exact copies".)

Dr. Gates goes on to say, "So, if an African American shares either of these DNA segments with a member of a present day ethnic group in Africa, then it is likely that they share a common ancestor." It is on this basis that African Ancestry reaches their conclusions. (I commented on this idea further in an earlier episode.) In order to be able to do this, African Ancestry has compiled a database of samples collected from "the ethnic groups in West and Central Africa that were most heavily raided during the slave trade."

Map of the regions sampled for African Ancestry's DNA database

Each of Dr. Gates' guests were tested to determine to which tribe this small portion of their DNA most closely matches. Being male, John Legend was fortunate to be able to trace both his Y-DNA and his mtDNA. His mtDNA was most similar to the Mende people in Sierra Leone and his Y-DNA was most similar to the Fula people in Guinea-Bissau. As Dr. Gates states, this "suggests" that these specific branches of his family tree lead to these areas.

John Legend's mtDNA traces to the Mende People

John Legend's Y-DNA traces to the Fula tribe.

The women only had the opportunity to trace their mitochondrial DNA since they do not have Y-chromosomes. Wanda didn't seem to have received a very specific result. The show stated that her mtDNA matched several groups, including the Tikar and Fulani (appears to be the same as the Fula) people of Cameroon. Incidentally, without seeing her family tree, this demonstrates to us that her white ancestor Elizabeth Banks who mothered Wanda's line of free ancestors of color was not her direct maternal ancestor (mother's mother's mother, etc....). If she had been, Wanda would have likely possessed European mtDNA.

Wanda Sykes's mtDNA traces to the Tikar and Fulani people

As a side note, I thought it was a lot of fun watching the lovely Margarett fulfill one of her stated life goals by learning more about her ancestors before she dies. Her welcome inclusion in the show supports the idea that watching non-celebrities unravel the secrets of their family trees can be just as compelling (sometimes more so) than the stream of celebrities being offered these opportunities.

Margarett right after learning the origins of her mtDNA

Margarett was extremely pleased to discover that her maternal roots traced back to the Temne people of Sierra Leone. (I strongly suggest following the links to read about all of these interesting African groups.)

Margarett's mtDNA traces to the Temne Tribe of Sierra Leone

Let's not forget that in focusing exclusively on the Y-DNA and mtDNA, large portions of the guests' genetic heritage was ignored. My wishlist for this episode would have, of course, included the popular pie-charts with the ancestral origin percentages (admixture) for each of the guests. It would have been interesting to see how much European DNA each of these guests possess, as well as if there is potential for Native American ancestors in their family trees. Usually Dr. Gates uses 23andMe's Ancestry Painting for this, although he sometimes also uses Family Tree DNA's Population Finder as well. At the top of the list would have been an autosomal DNA test performed on John Legend's delightful fourth cousin John Hale to determine if they share any detectable DNA segments inherited from their mutual third great grandfather, the legendary Peyton Polly and his unknown wife. A test such as 23andMe or Family Tree DNA's Family Finder have about a 50% chance of detecting shared DNA between fourth cousins. As I have said before, the use of genetic genealogy in exploring these types of questions is my favorite application of the science. Autosomal DNA testing works best for examining a theory that two people are related to each other in relatively recent times. A negative result does not disprove the connection at this level of relatedness, but a positive one can strongly support it. Unfortunately, while Dr. Gates' team likely performed many of the DNA tests on my list, there wasn't time to show all of the results.

Sadly, next week is the last episode of the series, so I hope it is chock full of genetic genealogy! I don't know where all of us will go to get our television genealogy fix since "Who Do You Think You Are?" is also ending next week (apparently for good). I sure hope that Dr. Gates hurries up and produces another one of his great family history series!

For the last episode, Dr. Gates and his team will be exploring the multiracial ancestry of Michelle Rodriguez, Adrian Grenier and Linda Chavez. See you then!

I have been writing a review of the DNA testing used in each episode:
Week 1- Episode 1 & Episode 2 - Harry Connick Jr. & Branford Marsalis; Cory A. Booker & John Lewis
Week 2- Episode 3 - Barbara Walters & Geoffrey Canada

Week 3- Episode 4 - Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick
Week 4- Episode 5 -  Rick Warren, Angela Buchdahl & Yasir Qadhi
Week 5- Episode 6 - Robert Downey, Jr. & Maggie Gyllenhaal 
Week 6 - Episode 7 - Condoleezza Rice, Samuel L. Jackson and Ruth Simmons 
Week 7 - Episode 8 - Martha Stewart, Margaret Cho and Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reminder - 23andMe's subscription model ends today at 5pm PST

Don't forget that today is the last day to order a 23andMe kit under the subscription model. You can purchase the kit for either $99 upfront and $9 per month for the next 12 months or you can pay $207 upfront. Starting at 5pm PST the price increases to $299. This is the last chance to get into the database for a low entry price.

With the risk of sounding like a commercial, if you were planning on purchasing a kit in the near future, now is the time to order.  I don't want any of my reader's to miss this opportunity just because they didn't know about it.

More details are in Tuesday's post.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

23andMe Eliminates Subscription Model and Announces New Price

23andMe has listened to its customers and decided to eliminate the subscription model beginning on Thursday ("end of day"), announcing the new price going forward will be $299. Existing customers who have already completed their subscription commitment of 12 months will not be required to pay the ongoing subscription fee in order to remain part of the 23andMe community. The rest of us who purchased at $99 in the last year will only be required to finish out the remaining portion of our initial 12 month subscription. This eliminates the concerns of genetic genealogists who were worried about the impact of losing Relative Finder matches with subscription lapses and defaults. In the future, participation in some new features may require an additional payment in the future, but as of now, those are undefined. Customers who purchased a Lifetime 23andMe Subscription for $399 since January 1, 2012 will receive a coupon for 50% off another test or will receive a refund of $100. In addition, those who have recently paid the $99 upgrade to a Lifetime Subscription after completing their 12 month subscription will receive refunds. Those who have defaulted on their subscription will be offered the opportunity to pay what is owed and finish off their subscription in order to be included under the new policy.

The post from Anne Wojcicki to the 23andMe community reads:

Dear 23andMe Community,

Effective by the end of day this Thursday, we are eliminating subscriptions and will have a single $299 price. We listened to your feedback and now understand that subscriptions were not good for you and thus, not good for 23andMe. We want you as our partner in this genetic journey. Together we will learn about ourselves and make discoveries that will hopefully benefit all of mankind. We thank you for your feedback, your advice and your suggestions. As partners in this journey, we thank you for your trust.

Here are some additional details:

- We will discontinue billing customers who have fulfilled their subscription commitment.

- Customers who have yet to complete their subscription commitment will continue to be billed each month until their initial contract commitment has been met. Once this commitment is met, no further subscription will be charged and you can enjoy your Personal Genome Service® on an ongoing basis.

- Customers will continue to enjoy access to all of 23andMe’s current features. In the future, 23andMe may launch premium, additive features. We want to emphasize that existing customers will not lose any product functionality with the new pricing structure.

- 23andMe does not have any immediate plans to introduce new premium fee-based features, but we expect to do so in the future.

- Through the end of May, customers interested in upgrading from v2 to v3 can do so for $199. After that it will be $249.

To upgrade, visit this page:

Customers impacted by these changes will be receiving emails directly from us with additional information within the next week.

If you have any questions, contact our Customer Care team:

Warm wishes,

23andMe CEO

So, if you are one of the minority who prefer the subscription model and/or only have $99 and have been waiting to buy, now (until "end of day" Thursday PST) is the time to order! ($207 total now versus $299)

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." - DNA in the Eighth Episode

Featured last night on the eighth episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. were Martha Stewart, Margaret Cho and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Each of these "trailblazers in media" descend from very recent immigrants to the United States and thus face special challenges in tracing their family trees. The good news is that I was granted the reprieve I hoped for last week and the bad news is that I was granted the reprieve I hoped for last week. There was very little genetic genealogy in this episode, so this will be a relatively quick and easy review.

"Domestic Goddess" Martha Stewart- genetics at play?

Early on in Martha's segment after discovering that many of the branches of her family tree were populated with ancestors who were "highly skilled in the domestic arts" - like basketweavers, iron workers and seamstresses, Dr. Gates commented that this "makes you believe in genetic predeterminism," the idea that an individual's development is preordained by heredity. Later, Martha mentioned her dog is named "Genghis Khan" after Dr. Gates' team linked her ancestry to the Tatar people who were subjugated under Khan and they laughingly discussed the possibility that she could be descended from him. (Filed under "things that make you go 'Hmmm'".)

Martha with her family member Genghis Khan II

The DNA portion of the show wasn't until the very end of the episode (starting at 46:40) and started with an analysis by  23andMe of Martha's direct maternal line DNA (mtDNA). (Mitochondrial Haplogroups are included with 23andMe's genome scan.) This ancestral line had been traced back by Dr. Gates' genealogy team to a maternal ancestor with the last name Albiniak who lived in the town of Janów, which apparently implies that the family was Muslim. Martha's mtDNA haplogroup was determined to be W6, a Central Asian haplogroup which, according to Dr. Gates, spread to the area around modern day Pakistan, thus supporting his genealogists' conclusion regarding a potential Islamic heritage for Martha's direct maternal line (mother's mother's mother's mother, etc...). Although this is quite an unexpected and intriguing result for someone who seems as WASPy American as apple pie, Martha didn't appear to be particularly surprised by the news.

Martha learning about her unusual mtDNA haplogroup

A website dedicated to the W haplogroup states that W6 reaches its highest concentrations in Georgia at 5.2% compared to 2.7% in Pakistan. Wikipedia states that Haplogroup W, not the subclade of W6, is found in Pakistan. I was unable to find enough information on this relatively rare haplogroup to reach any definite conclusions on its relevancy to Martha's family history.

Distribution of Martha's mtDNA Haplogroup W6

Next, Dr. Gates revealed Sanjay's mitochondrial DNA haplogroup to be U2c, which he said occurs most often in the Sindhi people of Southern Pakistan. This result is not surprising for a person of Indian heritage like Sanjay and coincided with his mother's family's recent migration (1947) from the area that is now Pakistan. This results suggested that Sanjay's direct maternal ancestral line was likely in this region for thousands of years. It would have been neat to find out what his paternal line haplogroup (Y-DNA Haplogroup) was too, but Dr. Gates chose to focus on mtDNA exclusively in this episode.

Sanjay's mtDNA Haplogroup U2c

Margaret was in for a bit of surprise when her mtDNA haplogroup was reported as D5a2a1b. This haplogroup reaches highest concentrations in China, not Margaret's family's homeland of Korea. In fact, D5a is extremely rare in Korea, appearing in less than one percent of the population. Further, Dr. Gates mentioned that "another test" showed that her paternal haplogroup also traces back to China instead of Korea. This other test would have been a Y-DNA Haplogroup test. Since Margaret herself does not have a Y-Chromosome, to reach this conclusion, Dr. Gates team must have tested her father or a brother. Unfortunately, the specific Y-DNA Haplogroup was not revealed. I would have liked to see it if only for the reason that, in my experience, Asian DNA is not widely discussed and would benefit from more visibility in our research and discussions.

Margaret's mtDNA Haplogroup D5a2a1b

Even though mtDNA haplogroups were the only DNA results explored in this episode, it was very interesting because each of the guests had a relatively rare haplogroup, at least as far as what exists in our databases at this point in time. (I searched the list of about 1000 people that I am sharing with at 23andMe and none of them had any of the three mtDNA haplogroups mentioned here. I also searched the corresponding haplogroup projects at FTDNA and found very few from these subclades.) Haplogroups are indicative of deep ancestry and are not generally genealogically relevant, however when the documentary paper trail runs out, they can provide clues as to the family's historic location and migratory pattern.  Dr. Gates explains it like this, "Certain DNA tests act like a genetic global positioning system, providing valuable clues about where our ancestors once lived." Apparently Dr. Gates' team used 23andMe's genetic scans to determine these haplogroups. This is a little surprising since haplogroup research is actually more of a specialty of Family Tree DNA, the other DNA testing company often featured in the series. 23andMe includes this information with their autosomal DNA test, but offers no further information beyond the haplogroup designation. At Family Tree DNA, a person can get the detailed list of the exact STRs (Y-DNA) and mutations (mtDNA), thus enabling matching with other individuals in the large FTDNA databases containing these specific results. (I suggest the Y-DNA 37 marker test and the mtDNA Plus.)

Investigating the family trees of Martha, Margaret and Sanjay

On my wish list would have been admixture breakdowns for the guests (remember those pie charts in earlier episodes?), especially Martha and Sanjay. Martha's results could have been very interesting if any of her Tatar autosomal DNA remains. I'm not sure what her breakdown would look like, but I imagine there would be an Asian component. Since her maternal grandmother was an Albiniak and her genetic contribution makes up about 25% of Martha's genome, it is certainly plausible that some autosomal genetic traces of her Tatar ancestors remain. (I note from an entry in Wikipedia that the Muslim Tatars were allowed the unusual right of intermarriage with Catholics in Poland, which may help to account for that portion of Martha's family tree.)

I would have also liked to see a breakdown of Sanjay's genetic ancestral origins to discover if, as a South Asian Indian, he has substantial admixture (of both Asian and European autosomal DNA) or primarily just Asian DNA. It is always interesting to me to see how these two components balance out. Margaret's autosomal DNA likely wouldn't have revealed anything significant since the major testing companies have yet to commercially analyze East Asian DNA in any great detail, but you never know.

I also really missed seeing the familiar faces from the two DNA testing companies regularly featured in this series.

Next week we will delve back into the genetics of African Americans with guests John Legend and Wanda Sykes who are both descended from free people of color.  Now that I've had my break, I hope this episode is packed full of DNA research on these intriguing family trees, especially since there are only two episodes left!

I have been writing a review of the DNA testing used in each episode:
Week 1- Episode 1 & Episode 2 - Harry Connick Jr. & Branford Marsalis; Cory A. Booker & John Lewis
Week 2- Episode 3 - Barbara Walters & Geoffrey Canada

Week 3- Episode 4 - Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick
Week 4- Episode 5 -  Rick Warren, Angela Buchdahl & Yasir Qadhi
Week 5- Episode 6 - Robert Downey, Jr. & Maggie Gyllenhaal 
Week 6 - Episode 7 - Condoleezza Rice, Samuel L. Jackson and Ruth Simmons

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ancestry.com Buys GeneTree (Another Competitor) and Launches Their New Autosomal DNA Product to Subscribers

I had suspected for some time that Ancestry.com had acquired GeneTree, especially since GeneTree stopped taking orders a couple of weeks ago and some key personnel had moved on to other projects. GeneTree now has this announcement on their website (misspelling theirs):

Great News!

We are pleased to announce that Ancestry.com DNA has acquired GeneTree and the DNA related assets from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. We are excited to work with Ancestery.com DNA and continue to advance the field of genetic genealogy. More information to come.

AncestryDNA is being offered only to Ancestry.com's 1.87 million current subscribers for $99. The best news of the day is contained in the press release which quotes a Harris Interactive study (of over 5,000 people) that found 56% of Americans surveyed were interested in taking a DNA test for genealogy!

Ancestry.com's official statement stops short of announcing the acquisition of GeneTree, stating, "In March, Ancestry.com DNA, LLC acquired access to an extensive collection of DNA assets from Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, a non-profit organization." In doing so, they also acquired the former Director of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) and President of GeneTree, Scott Woodward, who is AncestryDNA's new Executive Director of "Genome Discovery". This statement begs the question, How do you "acquire access" to a non-profit organization's most important assets, including their Director without essentially buying it, and if they bought it, why don't they just say so? As a consumer, I don't know all the legalities involved, but GeneTree, the for-profit arm of SMGF, clearly states on their website that they were acquired. Doesn't that mean that they, as a company, were bought? Could it be that Ancestry.com is wary of announcing another acquisition of a competitor so soon after that of Archives.com (announced on 4/25/12)?

[Update - I have been informed that it is a legal distinction and one cannot "buy" a foundation, but my question is still this: We are pleased to announce that Ancestry.com DNA has acquired GeneTree and the DNA related assets from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.  (bolding mine) Aren't the "DNA related assets" pretty much everything when according to their website, "The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to building the world's foremost collection of DNA and corresponding genealogical information"? What is the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation going to do now?]

Subscribers can get more info on the test here. (I don't see a link to purchase it yet.) Note that the test appears to still be in Beta.

Here is the announcement:

Ancestry.com Launches New AncestryDNA Service: The Next Generation of DNA Science Poised to Enrich Family History Research
Affordable DNA Test Combines Depth of Ancestry.com Family History Database With an Extensive Collection of DNA Samples to Open New Doors to Family Discovery
PROVO, Utah, May 3, 2012 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- Ancestry.com ACOM -2.98% , today announced the launch of its highly anticipated AncestryDNA(TM) service, a new affordable DNA test that enables purchasers of the DNA test and subscribers of Ancestry.com to combine new state-of-the-art DNA science with the world's largest online family history resource and a broad global database of DNA samples.
The new DNA test analyzes a person's genome at over 700,000 marker locations, cross referencing an extensive worldwide DNA database with the aim of providing exciting insights into their ethnic backgrounds and helping them find distant cousins who may hold the keys to exciting family history discoveries. By combining these genetic matches with Ancestry.com's 34 million family trees and 9 billion records, AncestryDNA intends to provide a differentiated experience that helps find common ancestors dating back as far as the middle 18th Century.
"We've worked hard at Ancestry.com for more than a year building, testing, and reinventing our approach to genetic genealogy," said Tim Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ancestry.com. "We think AncestryDNA has created a unique and engaging experience that will provide existing Ancestry.com subscribers with an entirely new way to make amazing discoveries about their family history. We are excited to be making AncestryDNA available to loyal Ancestry.com subscribers first…but we look forward to eventually opening up this service to everyone. We think it will allow us to extend our mission to help people discover, preserve, and share their family history to an even greater audience."
AncestryDNA helps determine geographic and ethnic origins by comparing test-takers' unique DNA signatures to the DNA of people from across the globe -- drawn from the preeminent collection of DNA samples assembled by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. The current version of the test includes 22 worldwide geographical and ethnic categories, including six regions in Europe, five regions in Africa, and Native American.
"We think the newest DNA technology will dramatically change family history research. For the experienced genealogist it will help break down brick walls and for the casual family historian it will make it easier than ever to get started," said Ken Chahine, Ph.D., J.D. Senior Vice President and General Manager of Ancestry.com DNA, LLC. "While the science is cutting edge, the new online experience is simpler and more intuitive than ever before. We've already had overwhelming response and positive feedback from beta users as they discover relatives and uncover the treasures their ancestors passed down through DNA. DNA picks up where the paper trail leaves off. Genomic science can extend family history research into parts of the world where few paper records are available."
Interest in exploring family history is rising quickly, especially on the scientific front, and that interest extends all the way back to the "old country," wherever it may be. In fact, 56 percent of Americans recently surveyed by Harris Interactive are interested in taking a DNA genealogy test, up from 42 percent less than a year ago*. What's more, people's family history interests reach back beyond arrival in America -- nearly two in three respondents told Harris that learning about pre-U.S. family members is one of the most important benefits of researching family history.
Pricing and Availability
Due to very strong early interest and demand, AncestryDNA will initially be made available by invitation-only to Ancestry.com subscribers for $99, with the expectation that the service will be made available to the general public later this year. To learn more about AncestryDNA, or to sign up to be notified once it's available, please visit www.ancestrydna.com .
In preparing to bring AncestryDNA to market with the best science and a broad set of research assets, AncestryDNA has organized a distinguished and independent Science Advisory Board and has also acquired access to DNA samples, many of which had been assembled by the non-profit Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. AncestryDNA will be offered through Ancestry.com DNA, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ancestry.com.
Science Advisory Board
With the continued focus on developing a solid DNA platform that stays ahead of the genetic genealogy trends, AncestryDNA has assembled a well-respected Scientific Advisory Board that can advise the company on best practices in the emerging field of DNA and genomic testing. The board consists of:
Carlos D. Bustamante, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine
Mark J. Daly, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical SchoolCenter for Human Genetics
John Novembre, Ph.D., Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles
Jeffrey R. Botkin, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Ethics, Associate Vice President for Research, University of Utah
Philip Awadalla, Ph.D., Director of the CARTaGENE BioBank, Saint Justine Hospital, Montreal, Canada
Addition of DNA Assets from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation
In March, Ancestry.com DNA, LLC acquired access to an extensive collection of DNA assets from Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, a non-profit organization. Founded by molecular genealogy pioneer, James LeVoy Sorenson, this organization has been dedicated to building the world's foremost collection of DNA samples and corresponding genealogical information. Over the last 12 years, the Sorenson Foundation collected a one-of-a-kind DNA database of tens of thousands of DNA samples with documented family histories in more than 100 countries on six continents. This DNA database gives AncestryDNA test-takers an expanded family history genetic resource, and should enable new levels of discovery about people's family backgrounds.
Jim Sorensen, President of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, added, "We are pleased to bring this far reaching, unique DNA collection to AncestryDNA. My father, James L. Sorenson, envisioned creating a genetic map of the peoples of the world that shows relationships shared by the entire human family and with the shared vision and resources of AncestryDNA his legacy will greatly expand. We are confident in the capabilities and dedication of the team to realize the potential of genetic genealogy faster than anyone else in the field. We see this as a great benefit to consumers as well as the scientific community by combining some of the best science with the leader in family history." 

Jim Sorensen (shouldn't it be "Sorenson"? maybe the vowel change is like one of those father to son Y-chromosome mutational events that we see every so often) says above that his father "envisioned creating a genetic map of the peoples of the world that shows relationships shared by the entire human family".  I think that is what all of us serious genetic genealogists are hoping for the future of our avocation, but how will Ancestry.com help us to reach this goal when they don't even provide the underlying genetic data to their customers? If we do not know which segments of our DNA match our cousins, how will we know which segments to map to our shared ancestors or even which segments are identified as originating from specific areas of the world, the exact information which is necessary to create this "genetic map"?

**I have written in detail about this new test here.**