Conference Reveals Latest Innovations in DNA Testing
Gathering in Houston Hears Panel of Renowned Experts on Genetic Genealogy Testing
HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Family Tree DNA, the world leader in genetic genealogy, is once again breaking new ground in family history research. At its 4th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy, Family Tree DNA announced the launch of the first comparative database for Full Mitochondria Sequences, the introduction of MyMaps, the world’s first personalized interactive genetic mapping system, and the novel “A Walk Through the Y Chromosome” test that allows participants to map genetic relationships through the male-inherited Y Chromosome. These represent bellwether innovations that pair the science of genetic testing and the world of genetic genealogy with the computer technology that makes worldwide networking a family affair.
“because MyMaps will allow an individual who doesn’t know, for example, what part of Ireland, or what part of Germany, or what part of France his immigrant ancestor came from to zero in on his closest genetic matches.”
The Conference, held Oct. 20-21 in Family Tree DNA’s hometown of Houston, featured leading experts in the field who addressed a variety of topics related to the scientific research, its applications and challenges, and the concerns associated with the expanding use of DNA testing for family history and deep ancestral research. Among the speakers at the conference were Dr. John M. Butler of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Dr. Michael Hammer, renowned Geneticist and Director of the Genomic Analysis and Technology Core facility at the University of Arizona, Dr. Theodore G. Schurr, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. David Soria of National Geographic and Family Tree DNA Founder-President Bennett Greenspan.
The Conference’s overflow crowd, comprised of Family Tree DNA Project Administrators from throughout the US and Europe, was given a first look at the workings of the comparative database for Full Mitochondria Sequences, transforming what had previously been an anthropological test into the world’s first high-resolution genealogy test. These Full Genomic Sequence (FGS) studies of the complete mitochondrial molecule mean that genealogists will, for the first time, be able to make significant comparisons between individuals who share a recent history.
Family Tree DNA’s Greenspan unveiled the MyMaps tool, the innovative genetic mapping system that enables individuals who don’t know where their European ancestors came from, to identify their possible specific geographical origins. MyMaps is applicable to all of the company’s Y-DNA and mtDNA tests. “This is a big advance for genealogists,” enthuses Greenspan, “because MyMaps will allow an individual who doesn’t know, for example, what part of Ireland, or what part of Germany, or what part of France his immigrant ancestor came from to zero in on his closest genetic matches.”
Dr. John Butler, Project Leader of NIST’s Human Identity DNA Measurements Group, addressed the challenging topic of the need for standardization in reporting genetic genealogical DNA results. Butler discussed guidelines that will rectify and bring clarity to the sometimes fractured reporting system currently used by various smaller genetic genealogy companies in the U.S.
Dr. Michael Hammer, Geneticist and Director of the Genomic Analysis and Technology Core facility at the University of Arizona and Family Tree DNA’s Chief Scientist, previewed highlights from his soon-to-be-published paper on the new phylogenetic tree named the YCC (Y Chromosome Consortium), a theoretical construct positing how evolution took place on the Y chromosome.
Dr. Schurr spoke about recent research into Native American populations, and Dr. Soria presented an update on the National Geographic Genographic Project’s collection of genetic samples, results’ analysis and the publication of papers on the genetic roots of modern humans and the migratory history of the human species. Family Tree DNA is the designated DNA-testing company for the five-year Genographic Project, led by National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells. Since its launch in 2005 by the National Geographic Society and IBM, Family Tree DNA has processed over 200,000 Genographic Project DNA tests.
“A Walk Through the Y Chromosome” is the significant third in the trio of Family Tree DNA innovations introduced at the two-day conference. Thomas Krahn, Director of Family Tree DNA’s Genomics Research Center, made the presentation, detailing a test to sequence vast sections of the Y chromosome. Those interested in finding family connections can order a fragment of their own DNA and check for an apparent match with others who have had the test.
Founded in April 2000, Family Tree DNA was the first company to develop the commercial application of DNA testing for genealogical purposes: until then, testing had only been available for academic and scientific research. Since that time, the pioneering company has developed a breadth and depth of programs and services and created standards that have earned it international respect and made it the world’s most popular DNA-testing service not only for genealogists but for anyone interested in delving beyond the surface into family roots. Today, Family Tree DNA’s database exceeds 160,000 individual test records (roughly 108,000 Y-DNA and 55,000 mtDNA tests), making it the premier source for researching recent and distant family ties. Additionally, the company has been able to ensure its position as the world leader in the field of genetic genealogy by its firm commitment and work in advancing the science that enables genealogists around the world to enhance research on their families and to fill in the gaps between genealogy and anthropology. Family Tree DNA has recently been featured in Time, Newsweek, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and on NBC-TV’s Today Show and CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes.