16 November 2012

Family Tree DNA’s 8th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy

Dateline: Houston Texas, 10-11 November 2012

Although we make history daily, only at monumental times do we realize it.  This year at the Family Tree DNA Conference, every one realized the history being made.

As usual on Friday, FTDNA provided a large room with a no-host bar where everyone rekindled old friendships and met new attendees.  We could register during this time or Saturday morning.  Our registration packet included a nice FTDNA carry bag, a conference logo T-shirt, pen, and Richard Hill’s new book Finding Family My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA.  I reviewed this book earlier on this blog.  It is an excellent book for genetic genealogists, adoptees, and for the general public.  A must read!

Bennett Greenspan
In Bennett Greenspan’s welcome gave us a bit of the company’s history.  They were the first to offer DNA testing for genealogy in 2000 after Bennett dogged Dr. Michael Hammer into doing a 12 marker test on him and Dr. Hammer suggested that someone needed to start a company as people kept asking him about testing for genealogy.  Bennett also informed us that his corporation had been reorganized a bit and is now is called Gene by Gene which has under it several companies:  Family Tree DNA for Ancestry, DNA Traits for Health, DNADTC for Research, and DNAFindings for Paternity.  I spoke of monumental times in history...here’s one:  The DNADTC division is the first commercial company to offer a full genome sequence test!  The price is $5495, but we know that will be lower in a few years.  For the Exome, your 20,000 genes, the cost is $695.  This is remarkable as it is a genetic genealogy company making this available to the public first and the entire genome was only sequenced in 2003 at the cost of 3 billion dollars.  We have come a long way and are moving quickly!       Congratulations to FTDNA for another first!
Other statistics for Family Tree DNA is that have purchased 1.5 million vials for testing since conception; they are processing 500 samples a day and sometimes through the weekend; is involved in Next-Generation Sequencing; will have easier to open vials; and have new automated machines to remove tedious tasks for workers.

Dr. Spencer Wells
Dr. Spencer Wells who heads the National Genographic Project talk with the group via Skype from Florence Italy where he was introducing the Geno 2.0 test which has sections on “Your Story”, “Our Story”, and “The Human Story”.  He mentioned that “Genetic genealogy is changing hyper-exponentially”.  His presentation gave an overview of the AIMs chip and how it was vetted as well as a view of the website which is still evolving.  The goals include determining more population details for those who are labeled 100% of a certain population, especially including Native American and differentiating between Native American and Asian. See my review of Geno 2.0 on this blog. Watch for a paper on Genographic about repopulating the Middle East.
One of the most exciting features of Geno 2.0 is that citizen scientists can conduct a “community led events”.  If you have a group, such as the Mennonites or other particular cultural group, you could apply to Genographic for conducting a study under the community led event.  Dr. Wells would not indicate how many kits have been sold so far as this is still the initial release (soft launch), but mentioned that significantly more than 10k kits have been sold and significantly less than 100k.

Judy Russell, JD, CGSM
Next was Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, is a genealogist with a law degree.   Her topic was Regulating Genetic Genealogy - Does It Make Sense?   Of all the presenters we have had in the past to speak to ethical questions and problems in this field, Judy delivered the most clear and most reasonable argument for regulating ourselves, for placing disclaimers on our project sites, for not misrepresenting our field, and she encouraged us to do all this so we would not be regulated by any government arm.  Judy tells us that the FDA is not interested in genetic genealogy, but in disease risk.  The Federal Trade Commission is concerned for “truth in advertising”…is what is promised being delivered?  She states that we need to rein in the charlatans as those are the ones who will cause regulation.  She clarified that AncestryDNA can give your DNA to anyone they contract or companies who buy them out; no warranties. Of 23andMe she states that the company will still use your surveys and genetic info even if you drop them and they do not need your consent on using it for publication.  Russell says that signing over your DNA for any company to use can come under FDA interest. She says FTDNA does not have these issues at all.  You must sign a release form for sharing your name and email with your matches.  Check the contracts before you test.
Judy Russell recommends we check the disclosure on the Melungeon Core project at FTDNA as it is a good example of disclosure and have something similar for all of our projects.
GINA (Genetic Information and Non-discrimination Act of 2008) is very limited and broad in protecting us with regard to DNA testing.  It only covers employment and health care.  It does not apply to life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care.
Some DNA companies (ex: Connect DNA) uses CODIS values and even suggests you put your results on Facebook!  Some states arrest for misdemeanors which put your DNA in CODIS and some states now use familiar DNA such as in the Grim Sleeper case.  The UK uses familial DNA.
Other tips she shared:  Do NOT sign release forms for others; don’t test someone without their consent.  If caught, this will cause regulation by the government.  Remember that any piece of legislation can be repealed or modified.  Testing your whole genome and disclosing it discloses information for your relatives who have not given consent.  In summary:  Make ethical decisions, respect privacy of others; do informed consent; and educate the public regarding DNA testing. The bottom line is:  If we don’t make better decisions, others will do it for us.
Question to Judy on testing dead relatives who had a previous test prompted the answer that if there is a child, you are not the heir to decide further testing.  (FTDNA does have a page which allows a beneficiary for your DNA, but that email must be updated. There are forms which can be signed by a notary before a tester dies to give permission to someone to manage their DNA. Email me for a copy.)
       I had the opportunity of speaking with her at the ISOGG gathering Saturday night and she is a commonsense and knowledgeable person.  Such a delight!

Dr. Thomas Krahn
Three break-out groups were available covering information on the Advanced Group Administrators Techniques by Elise Friedman of Relative Roots (more on Elise's presentation tomorrow), on Family Finder by CeCe Moore, and Walk the Y Update by Dr. Thomas Krahn of Family Tree DNA.  All were very informative, of course.

Dr. Tim Janzen
CeCe Moore covered the basics of autosomal testing starting with cell structure and walked through several of the pages showing how to download data from the Chromosome Browser.  She mentioned to calculate the shared percentage of your genome divide the total cMs by 68.  See FTDNA’s FAQ on Family Finder for great information as well as taking the tutorial on your personal website.   The most exciting part of the presentation was from Rob Warthen who has a tool to download all your Family Finder matches at once, something many of us have strived to have FTDNA do (and they did decide to do so!).  CeCe covered what many of us are now doing on testing various family members and mapping our chromosomes to determine what segments come from what ancestor as was presented by Dr. Tim Janzen.
     Dr. Krahn mentioned that no one from haplogroups B, D, M, and S have done Walk The Y and they would really like to get someone from each.  There have been 494 WTY participants and only 198 did not find a new SNP.  Some of these presentations will be available at FTDNA, perhaps all.

Dr. Tyrone Bowes
Dr. Tyrone Bowes of Irish Origenes spoke on Pinpointing a Geographical Location.  His company has detailed maps on Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.  He suggests that you can use low-level matches (12 and 25 markers) to see where those names lived in one of these countries and narrow the locations to what is most likely.  Check all spellings and locations from castles to clan mapping as place names may reflect early inhabitants and areas where people were when they picked surnames. Once a chief of a clan is gone, people could take a new surname.  Townlands lead to surnames. Know the history.  He does consulting on this in his business.

In the Question and Answer period included these:  
1.  Drugs, alcohol, radiation, etc. are more likely to cause a null (no marker results) than a different allele.  Blood transfusions would require you to wait weeks to test UNLESS you are VERY careful in scraping to not get any blood on the swab.  It’s really safer to wait.
2.  If you have few or no matches it is probably a coincidence so wait until the database grows.  The database does have gaps as you can’t get DNA out of some countries, such as China.  DNA has been sent surreptitiously from Russia so that is another area of concern.
3.  When Geno 2.0 is eventually offered through FTDNA for existing samples to be used, there needs to be an unopened vial.
4.  Geno 2.0 is the closest thing to the full genome (for now), but does not have as high resolution ad would not show private mutations.
5.  Niall of the Nine Hostages has four sub-groups and Geno may show which is the dominate line
6.  FTDNA is going to Build 37 in the next two months or so which adds 3-4,000 new SNPs in the Family Finder chip and the X-chromosome browser is coming.
7.  FTDNA has 500,000 vials in storage currently, and transfers from other companies are going great.
8.  FTDNA anticipates uploading Ancestry raw autosomal data when Ancestry allows customers to download their raw data.
9.  In the next version, Palendromic matches will be counted as one mutation event as it actually happens as one event.

Sunday's presentations and historical news will follow...

16 Nov 2012


RobWarthen said...

Just wanted to let you know that we now have a web site up at https://www.dnagedcom.com where you can download your data without running the program.

Alina said...

Great Post! But you might just want to try having irishfamily roots , it would be really interesting!