Just as I thought, 2019 is turning out to be an interesting year for DNA testing, genetic genealogy, and family tree research. A few important things happened this month that might change the DNA testing landscape permanently.
In this post, find my monthly “synopsis” of the latest news in DNA and genealogy, including:
- Major changes and updates to DNA testing company services and policies
- Exciting celebrity DNA results
- Top DNA test sales for February 2019
Major DNA testing company changes and updates
Family Tree DNA to begin work testing FBI DNA samples
In order to help identify the identities of deceased individuals and violent criminals, Family Tree DNA has begun working with The US Federal Bureau of Investigation on a limited basis. The primary scope of the work involves testing of DNA samples.
- First, they will begin testing certain DNA samples at the request of the FBI. With information obtained from testing of the samples, they will create SNP data files.
- The SNP data files created by Family Tree DNA will then be able to be uploaded to any public DNA database, including the one owned and operated by Family Tree DNA.
What type of information might be available to law enforcement through public DNA databases?
Family Tree DNA has assured the public and its customers that law enforcement will not have special access to the DNA database without a court order or a warrant. This is nothing new, and is the general practice will all DNA testing companies.
Law enforcement will upload the SNP data files to their database and manage their results, just like any of us would. They will only be able to see who the closest relatives are (or initials, in the case that the closest relatives are using initials instead of their full name on their profile), the amount of shared DNA, segment data, as well as family tree information, if available.
This is very similar to what has already been happening for some time on Gedmatch, except for the major difference being that Gedmatch has not been involved in the testing or analysis of DNA samples or creation of SNP data files.
Should we worry about the FTDNA/FBI relationship?
After reading their press release and an update to their terms of service, I don’t believe that this is a cause for much alarm. In the service of preventing other people from becoming victims of violent crimes, this appears to me to be a good use of genealogical and DNA data – especially if it continues to be used in a limited and respectful manner.
Note: I am an affiliate and a customer of Family Tree DNA. I occasionally receive very small commissions from Family Tree DNA when visitors to my website click on links to purchase DNA tests from the company.
DNA tests on sale for Valentines Day!
My Heritage DNA is offering their DNA kits at only $59 each. If you order more than two, you get free shipping. This is their Valentine’s Day Sale, and it ends today, February 4, 2019.
If you purchase using the link(s) below, I might receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you. I appreciate you using these links because it helps me support the work that I do on this website, so thanks! You are my hero 🙂
Updates to DNA analysis sites and new services to help you learn from DNA results
Celebrity DNA results: Marisa Tomei, Julianne Moore, and Elizabeth Warren
It turns out that celebrities are just as curious about their roots as the rest of us!
Marisa Tomei and Julianne Moore share DNA segment
Have you ever had a good friend and wondered if maybe the reason you get along so well is because you are actually related to each other? It turns out that Marisa Tomei and Julianne Moore have more in common than just a good friendship (and an academic career – they went to Boston University together). On a recent episode of Finding Your Roots, it was revealed to Marisa that she shares genetic material with Julianne Moore.
According to Henry Louis Gates, the shared DNA segment is on the X chromosome. Since there was no mention of DNA on any other segment (numbered chromosome), and researchers were unable to determine any obvious lines of their families that might eventually cross, it leads me to believe that their connection is fairly distant. X DNA is notoriously complicated to trace, especially over many generations.
I have a great friend who I would love to convince to take a DNA test. Who knows what we’ll learn?
Should Elizabeth Warren have apologized for taking a DNA test to prove Native America roots?
Senator Elizabeth Warren has officially apologized to the Cherokee Nation for taking a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry. Although Senator Warren did, in fact, find traces of the indigenous ancestry she reports having grown up with the knowledge of, her DNA results caused quite a disturbance.
It is common knowledge (or at least should be) that finding Native American DNA is one’s results does not give anyone the right to tribal membership. In fact, DNA typically has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not someone has the right to join Native American tribe or group. Native American tribes are responsible for deciding who is eligible for membership.
With that said, should people be allowed to explore their Native American roots without necessarily identifying with a particular tribe or pursuing membership?
Genetic Genealogy in the news – highlight reel
- Maryland lawmakers consider passing a law banning law enforcement officials from using publicly available databases (like Gedmatch, for example), to try to identify criminals
- Danielle Teuscher was researching her daughter’s ancestry and took a DNA test. Her sperm donor’s bio family was identified, and the sperm bank threatened legal action against the mother.
- The identity of a Texas woman whose burned body was discovered more than 12 years ago was discovered using genetic genealogy. Members of the DNA Doe Project used DNA and genealogy to determine her identity.
Genetic Testing for Health – 23andMe collaborates with pharmaceutical companies
Would you agree to have your DNA used for research purposes in order to develop medications, treatments and other breakthroughs in medicine? Genetic data is shared “in the aggregate” with the corporate and scientific collaborators. This means that no data will be shared in a way that might allow a DNA tester to be identified.
You can read more about this on NBC’s post, “DNA test company 23andMe now fueling medical research“.
Do you know something newsworthy about a DNA testing company or a website that offers a product or service related to DNA analysis? Let me know by sending me an e-mail: mercedes @ whoareyoumadeof.com. I would love to include it in my monthly DNA News and Updates series.