Decennial Conference on Genetic Genealogy – Sunday

I had to make a choice to get this out now and messy or later and edited… I think most people want it NOW so please don’t mind the typos. These are basically raw notes with no proofreading. Dr. Michael Hammer presented Ancient and Modern DNA Update: How many ancestral populations for Europeans? Ancient DNA is the key to figuring out the historical processes that led up to the DNA of today. How do we know what the historical situation was that led us to the present? We can look at ancient DNA. Dr. Hammer shared a study that shows that genes in Europe may have come from a third source. There is a northeast Asian-related admixture in northern Europeans.­ A study by Rahavan et al. (2013) sequenced the genome of a 24,000 year old Siberian individual, which was genetically similar to Native Americans and West Eurasians, but not close to East Asians. About two or three weeks ago a paper came out in Nature by Lazaridis and about 100 other authors, including Dr. Hammer. This was the first study to fully sequence genomes of Neolithic and Mesolithic Europeans. There were nine ancient genomes that were fully sequenced. The samples came from Sweden about 8,000 years old, Loschbour about 8,000 years old, and Stuttgart, about 7,000 years ago. SNP data was analyzed with >2,300 worldwide samples. There was a discontinuity of Europeans and Near Easterners in the PCA clusters. The genomic data from the ancient samples was projected onto a modern map. They form three clusters, Western Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) meta-population based on the genome from Loschbour, Luxembourg, Early European...

Decennial Conference on Genetic Genealogy

  Family Tree DNA kicked off its Decennial Conference on Genetic Genealogy at the Hyatt North Houston in Houston, Texas.  Max Blankenfeld welcomed the crowd of more than 180 group administrators and acknowledged those who had been to all ten conferences as well as those who have been group administrators for more than ten years. Max encouraged constructive feedback of Family Tree DNA in order to be sure the company moves in a way that works for the administrators and customers. Bennett Greenspan gave an overview of the speakers for the weekend. The first speaker of the morning, Dr. Blaine Bettinger, is an intellectual property attorney who writes The Genetic Genealogist blog. Blaine pointed out that there are no “Ethics Police” and you will not go to ethics jail, although there may be consequences. He reminded us that we need to be proactive instead of reactive in order to increase positive feedback and reduce the negatives. The way to do this is through education. Be sure to remind individuals to read Terms of Use but you do need to explain further and not rely on this, as most people do not read terms of use. Be sure to provide information to project members about what information will be made publicly available. Surprises occur and people should be aware of this before testing. Blaine warned to be aware of genetic exceptionalism. DNA reveals family secrets every day. Never promise anonymity, as DNA is identifiable by nature. It is important that we never promise the absence of medical information, as we don’t know what we don’t know. Blaine reviewed GINA and...

9th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy – Day 1

Max Blankfeld opened the conference with a welcome.  Max talked about competition making for healthy growth.  This has been the best year ever and there are great things in the pipeline. In June of this year, what started as an acquisition became something that could be a guarantee of continuity for Family Tree DNA.  Three new people have been added to staff.  Nir Leibovich is the Chief Business Officer, David Mittelman is the Chief Scientific Officer, and Jason Wang is the Chief Technology Officer leading the Engineering Department. Max got a little bit emotional as he talked about people who have been great supporters of Family Tree DNA who are no longer with us.  He stressed that he really appreciates what they brought to the company and most importantly, their friendship.  He also sent best wishes to Bill Hurst for a speedy recovery. Bennett stepped up to join Max to talk about group administrators who have been with them for 10 years or more.  Each of these group administrators will receive a plaque to honor their years of commitment. Bennett talked a bit about the lab tours.  Approximately 60 people in total have or will attend lab tours during this conference period.  Bennett shared the news about the CAP certification.  This allows the company to justify the acquisition of some expensive instruments that will be beneficial to the genealogical community. The first speaker of the day was Amy McGuire, PhD, JD, of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine, presenting Am I My Brother’s Keeper?  DNA Identifiability and Obligations to Biological Relatives in Genetic Genealogy. ...

Get your DNA test here! A tour of the Family Tree DNA Lab

It’s that time of year again!  Genetic Genealogy enthusiasts have gathered at the Sheraton North Houston for the 9th Annual International Conference on Genetic Genealogy.  This year lab tours were offered on Friday as well as Monday, which is great for those who plan to fly out on Sunday.  Bennett Greenspan, President of Family Tree DNA, welcomed our group to the lab. The lab at Family Tree DNA is a fully functional five or six day a week lab.  Our first stop was the Pre-PCR area where DNA has not been amplified.  Once DNA is amplified, it never returns to this area.  Our group put on lab coats and anyone with open-toed shoes put on booties. Bennett explained that all of the tubes have a red cap instead of the old tethered cap style.  The machine shown below automatically fills each tube with the buffer that allows the sample to sit for long periods.  The buffer arrests any potential for bacterial growth while the DNA is in the tube.  About 400 per hour can be produced by this machine. The next robot extracts approximately 600 samples per day during one normal shift.  Around Christmas time the process is doubled in order to extract 1,200 samples per day. The liquid handling robot takes DNA, puts it into a daughter plate, and puts a primer mix and a master mix in the well.  Master mix is a neutral solution and the primer mix might be for any of the Y-DNA SNPs that have to be used for a confirmation purpose. DNA samples that arrived yesterday or the day before that have not...

8th Annual Conference on Genetic Genealogy – Day 2

ISOGG FTDNA Chapter Meeting Sunday morning at the conference always starts with a meeting of the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG) FTDNA Chapter.  ISOGG President Katherine Borges reminded everyone that ISOGG is a free support network for genetic genealogists.  Upon joining ISOGG, members receive an invitation to the ISOGG mailing list.  Katherine reminded everyone that ISOGG is self-supporting and hosts booths.  They maintain speakers list.  If you speak on Genetic Genealogy, please submit your name. Alice Fairhurst is in charge of the ISOGG Y-SNP tree.  She pleaded with the audience for volunteers to help administrate the tree.  There are just a few people who struggle to keep up with everything on a voluntary basis outside of their regular jobs, which often includes engineering and IT positions.  Alice shared changes that we can expect, including migrating ISOGG to a more powerful server and utilizing an SQL database.  The tree will remain in its current style through 2012 and she is not sure if they will be able to get the new tree up in January.  It is still too early to say. It is going to be very important to learn SNP names, as subclade names may change as new discoveries are found on the Geno project.  The new system is going to be parent / child.  She said, “The explosion in knowledge in the last two years has been tremendous.”  Many universities and students are now using the ISOGG tree and routinely send notes of thanks to the group for all they’ve done and are doing.  The ISOGG page that receives the most hits is the Index to Y-DNA SNPs. Brian Swann, the ISOGG European Coordinator for England and Wales, has...

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