Rochester Genealogical Society, Inc.
Computer Interest Group
7 September 2006
The 152nd meeting of the CIG was held at 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the Auditorium of the Council Rock Elementary School at 600 Grosvenor Road in Brighton.
RGS VP/CIG Chairperson Marlene Bettin opened the meeting with the evening's agenda, useful reminders, and visitor introductions. Thirty-eight (38) members and guests were in attendance.
More information about the CIG (and RGS) can be found online at www.rootsweb.com/~nyrgs (the RGS web site).
Storm Closing Information & Last Minute Changes
Storm closing information will be available from the following sources:
Please check for last minute changes in meeting location, substitute speakers, etc. at:
Upcoming RGS and CIG Meetings
The next RGS meeting is on 21 September, 2006 at the Asbury First Methodist Church:
CIG meets in the Auditorium of Brighton Central School District's Council Rock Elementary School at 600 Grosvenor Road in Brighton. The next 2 meetings are:
CIG meetings are scheduled for the 2nd Thursday of each month (September through June) unless otherwise noted.
The latest information on all RGS and CIG meetings is always available at www.rootsweb.com/~nyrgs (the RGS web site).
Free Web Sites of the Month
Marlene provided some web sites containing excellent tips to improve your Internet searches by ‘googling’:
Bob Coomber alerted members to a petition from the FGS to pursuade the National Archives to not limit its hours in such a way as to make the archives inaccessible to genealogists with working hour obligations. Members are encouraged to electronically sign this petition by visiting the web site www.petitiononline.com/FGS2006.
“The Genetic Family Tree: Genealogy and DNA”
by Roy Thurston
Roy gave a comprehensive presentation that described how molecular analysis of DNA can be used to advance genealogy, recounted the history of Jim Sorenson's efforts to collect and analyze genealogical DNA information, and offered an invitation to RGS members to participate in a unique testing opportunity. The presentation included an informative video by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) describing its current research project. What follows is a summary of Roy's presentation supplemented by information found on the SMGF web site. Mark Bewicke
Based on fossil evidence, scientific theory speculates that modern humans originated somewhere in Africa and branched out in distinct waves of migration to Europe, Asia, and eventually the Americas. One means to confirm this theory involves the molecular analysis of DNA.
Over hundreds of generations, random variations accumulate in genes, the building blocks of DNA. This variation over time and location is called genetic drift. DNA markers, specific sequences on certain genes that seldom change, are compared to determine the 'genetic distance' between two samples. While the human genome contains something like two billion markers, 250 are sufficient to identify lines of heredity.
In prehistoric times, the gene pools of population groups isolated by geography or language would each tend to have a distinct DNA 'heritage' reflecting the group's unique accumulation of random genetic variations. In general the more markers one has in common with a gene pool, the more likely one's ancestors came from that gene pool. For example, prior to the white man's discovery of the Americas, Native American Indians were isolated from the populations of the rest of the world and constituted a distinctive gene pool. Since American Indians are genetically most similar to the peoples of Mongolia, this supports the theory that these two groups share common ancestors. Applying this knowledge to gene pools around the globe and integrating fossil evidence, scientists in the last decade have begun to chart the path of human prehistoric migrations, and are getting closer to confirming the 'out of Africa' hypothesis.
It should be noted that every grand theory has its exceptions, and some day genetic testing may help explain how some Great Lakes Indian tribes resemble Europeans and how a Virginian Indian tribe was found upon first contact by white man to speak Welch.
An interesting mental exercise is to calculate how many ancestors one had in past generations. Every human must have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, and so on. Thirty generations ago every individual must have had a billion ancestors. However, the equivalent 700 years ago, there were less than a billion humans on the planet. The implication is that if we go back far enough, everyone is related.
The Science of Molecular Genealogy
Until recently the only way to trace one's ancestry was by oral or written records passed down through the generations. These kinds of records are often inaccurate, and where records exist they still do not illuminate times before the dawn of recorded history. By testing for common DNA markers, genetic genealogy compares genes that do not change over hundreds of generations and can confirm or deny descent specifically from known ancestors, or generally from prehistoric ancestral groups.
While every individual's DNA consists of an equal contribution from each of his or her parents, the DNA on a man's Y chomosome (yDNA) is passed relatively unchanged from his father. In patrilineal societies, the yDNA follows the male surname and can be used to prove or disprove legitimacy, for example.
Similarly, portions of the X chromosome (mtDNA or mitochondrial DNA) are passed unchanged from mothers to both sons and daughters, but then only passed to subsequent generations by daughters. Testing mtDNA makes it possible to genetically confirm one's maternal line ancestry.
Current research is also investigating autosomal DNA (non sexual or aDNA) that is inherited from both parents. Autosomal DNA determines our physical characteristics such as eye color. While aDNA markers can be inherited from either parent, they can still provide insights to ancestry through the grandparent generation.
In 1999 Jim Sorenson, an elusive billionaire and patron of the Mormon Church, envisioned a genetic map of the peoples of the world a family tree of the entire human family. He realized that every human being carries around a genetic record of their ancestors in the DNA contained in most tissues of the body and that systematic testing of this DNA could construct this family tree like no other method. To realize his vision Jim then contacted Brigham Young University professor Scott Woodward to discuss ways to do this. Jim donated two million dollars to Brigham Young University (BYU) to fund what became known as the Molecular Genealogy Research Project. This project first collected yDNA from every representative gene pool around the world and used the BYU labs to analyze the DNA in order to create a reference database. The project then began to collect yDNA samples from ordinary people with known pedigrees. The research plan intended to combine the molecular evidence with proven ancestries to bridge the gap between contemporary DNA samples and ancient gene pools. By 2002 the project had mushroomed in size and the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) was set up to oversee analysis and research. In 2003 the BYU project was terminated, its researchers hired by SGMF, and all collected genetic and genealogical data was transferred from BYU to SMGF where lab testing was out sourced to Jim's Sorenson Genomics company (now called Relative Genetics). In 2004 an on line database was released where donors could access their DNA results. To protect the privacy of donors, no personal information of living donors is released. Initial calculations predicted that 100,000 samples would provide enough information to correlate an individual's DNA with a representative gene pool and also provide some links to the gene patterns of other donors with the same surnames.
By finding close DNA matches and then comparing pedigrees and locations, individuals may be able to identify additional common ancestors and family relationships including living relatives. The SMGF yDNA database can also be searched by surname.
Quite a number of RGS members did take part in an initial testing: blood samples were provided as the source of yDNA. This proved to be extremely expensive because the DNA in blood degrades quickly unless the blood is kept cold enroute to the laboratory in Salt Lake City. Although blood samples remain one of the best sources of DNA, researchers found that DNA could be collected by mouth swabs (as now seen on many Crime Investigation TV shows) and kept stable without refrigeration. SMGF is now collecting DNA with mouth wash - the donor is simply asked to ‘swish’ the liquid around in the mouth for less than a minute and then return the liquid to a collection container.
As the technology progressed, mtDNA markers were checked in incoming DNA samples. Currently aDNA markers are being identified and donor's aDNA may soon provide equally useful information.
A Unique Opportunity
After the very thorough presentation of the genetics involved and the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation video, Roy Thurston invited RGS members to sign up for free testing at the next Computer Interest Group meeting. A handout from SMGF is provided for additional information. RGS members will get the same opportunity at the September (sign up) and October (collection) meetings. The DNA collected will be tested for yDNA, mtDNA, and eventually aDNA markers. Any of these tests would cost a minimum of $95 at commercial genetic testing firms such as Relative Genetics.
Interested members should bring with them at least a 4 generation pedigree chart with their ancestor’s names, birth/death dates, and places — each page should include the donor's name and address. For reasons of confidentiality, participants should hide the the identity of any living ancestors; for the same reason the first two generations (the donor’s generation and his or her parents) will not be input to the research database. Pedigrees for yDNA testing should include a man's longest male line for yDNA testing; pedigrees for mtDNA testing should include one's longest female line. Women who want to test their own male ancestry can bring their own father, brother, or son for testing. More information is available on the SMGF website. Note: RGS members who had their blood tested do not need to re test their DNA unless (a) they were unable to obtain any results from the first test, or (b) they now want to test their mtDNA and aDNA (with appropriate pedigrees).
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