DNA is the latest tool for researchers trying to connect and learn about their ancestral roots. Genetic genealogy can confirm relationships for which the paper trail has disappeared, and it can also help researchers to avoid wild goose chases.
Family Tree DNA is the designated DNA-testing company for the five-year Genographic Project, led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells. Since the NGS/IBM project, the company has processed more than 200,000 Genographic Project DNA tests.
In 2006, I attended Family Tree DNA's 3rd International Conference on Genetic Genealogy and was amazed at the high level of knowledge and passion represented by the attendees, who are mainly lay administrators of surname and geographical projects, as well as the scientists whose presentations clarified normally difficult topics.
The annual meeting is aimed at administrators of Family Tree DNA projects from the US and Europe, who were the first to look at the full mtDNA (female DNA) sequences comparative database, which will, according to the company, make it possible for genealogists to make significant comparisons between individuals who share recent history.
Founded in April 2000, it was the first company to develop the commercial application of DNA testing for genealogical purposes. Today, its continually growing database exceeds 160,000 individual test records for Y-DNA (male) and mtDNA (female).
Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the 2007 meeting, but I was happy to receive the post-event update, which included several major announcements:
- Launch of the first comparative database for Full Mitochondria Sequences.
- Introduction of MyMaps, the first personalized interactive genetic mapping system in the world.
- The A Walk Through the Y Chromosome test that allows participants to map genetic relationships through the male-inherited Y Chromosome.
Leading experts presented topics related to research, applications and challenges, and included:
- Dr. John M. Butler, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
- Dr. Michael Hammer, renowned geneticist; director, Genomic Analysis and Technology Core facility at the University of Arizona
- Dr. Theodore G. Schurr, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
- Dr. David Soria of National Geographic
- Family Tree DNA Founder-President Bennett Greenspan
The company is the pioneer in the field of genetic genealogy and offers cutting-edge innovation connecting genetic testing science and genetic genealogy with computer technology.
Founder/president Bennett Greenspan unveiled MyMaps, an innovative genetic mapping system enabling individuals who don’t know where their European ancestors came from, to identify possible specific geographical origins. It is applicable to all of the company Y-DNA and mtDNA tests.
Dr. Butler - project leader of the NIST Human Identity DNA Measurements Group - addressed the challenge of the need for standardization in reporting genetic genealogical DNA results.
Dr. Hammer - Family Tree DNA's chief scientist - previewed highlights from his upcoming paper on the new phylogenetic tree (YCC or Y Chromosome Consortium).
Native American populations research was addressed by Dr. Schurr, while Dr. Soria presented an update on the National Geographic Genographic Project collection of genetic samples, results analysis and papers on modern humans' genetic roots and human migratory history.
Dr. Thomas Krahn - Family Tree DNA's Genomics Research Center director - presented A Walk thru the Y Chromosome and detailed a test to sequence vast sections of the Y chromosome.
There is a wealth of information at the website; click here.
Have you participated in the National Geographic Genome Project? Are you interested in setting up a surname or geographic project?
I look forward to reading your comments and questions.