Saturday, April 25, 2015

Approaches to DNA & Genealogy

DNA, genetics, genealogy, CeCe Moore, WRHS

Today, I attended a day conference on Genetic Genealogy with CeCe Moore, The Genetic Genealogist. She did mention Y-DNA and mtDNA, but most of the day was spent examining autosomal DNA and how to use it to break down brick walls. 

Since I couldn't record Ms. Moore's talk here is an episode of Naked Genetics in which Professor Mark Jobling, from the University of Cambridge, discusses how academic DNA sequencing intersects with genealogy research. While he understands that people want to know where their ancestors come from, the reality is that our ancestors didn't come from one specific location - they came from everywhere. The only ancestors we can trace with any confidence are those that passed down their Y chromosome and their mtDNA which represent only two individuals. This segment opens the program.

Then unless you are super keen on genetics, skip ahead to 18:07 to hear Dr. Turi King discuss her research on the Y-chromosome. She uses this chromosome in connection with surnames to trace Norse Viking migrations.

I think Dr. Jobling would be surprised at how successful autosomal DNA can be, if enough people are tested and a paper trail can be found. On the other hand, the goals of genealogists and geneticists are quite different and there is no way a geneticist could take the time to piece together autosomal DNA from all their subjects. 

nb. a version of this post appeared on The Historian's Family in August 2014.

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