DNA: the basics and way beyond

ABCs and so much more

So it’s DNA Sunday around here, and The Legal Genealogist‘s inner DNA geek is having a wonderful day. Because today is a day for getting ready to share the basics of DNA with other genealogists, and for going way beyond the basics personally.

The ABCs of DNA

The ABCs of DNA is the name of the presentation I’m giving Friday and Saturday at The Genealogy Event in New York City.

On Friday, October 26th, I’ll be speaking at at 1:15 p.m., and on Saturday, October 27th, at 11 a.m., so if you’re in the area and you’ve been thinking about sticking your toes in the waters of genetic genealogy, come join me and we’ll go over the basics of what you need to know to choose the right test for you.

For more information about The Genealogy Event, visit its website or its Facebook page (and just in case, here are travel directions for the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, between 6th and 7th).

Geno 2.0 kit

As much as I love talking about DNA and genealogy, I also love doing DNA and genealogy.

So I was awfully happy to arrive home one night this past week to a package on my doorstep with a return address of National Geographic. Yep, the Geno 2.0 test kits are shipping, and I’m really excited to be taking part. (You can read more about Geno 2.0 here.)

The kit itself is beautifully put together, certainly suitable for a gift package for the DNA geek in your family. It’s an attractive black box that opens on the side. On the inner left hand side is a label entitled Your Genographic Story where you can inscribe your name — or the name of the person you’re giving it to — with the kit identification code.

There’s a beautiful full color brochure called Geno 2.0: Your Story. Our Story. The Human Story, the Quick Start Guide & Consent Form, and of course the cheek swab kit itself.

The brochure is very well done. With beautiful imagery characteristic of National Geographic and a simply told story, it explains that:

The Genographic Project is an ambitious attempt to help answer fundamental questions about where we originated and how we came to populate the Earth. …

By participating in this next generation of our Genographic Project, you are doing more than uncovering the mysteries of your ancestry. You can play an active role in the historic quest to map the genetic journey of us all by choosing to contribute your own DNA to the project. And a portion of the proceeds from your purchase of this Geno 2.0 participation kit go to the Genographic Legacy Fund, which supports community-led indigenous conservation and revitalization projects around the world.

The instructions and consent form are straightforward. There’s a checklist on the form reminding everyone to include the consent form in the kit that’s returned for testing — without that consent form, the samples can’t be tested. So make sure you mark the reverse side appropriately (male, female, your sample or consent for your minor child) and put it into the return envelope with your test vials.

And speaking of those vials… this is a standard cheek swab kit. There are two swabs that you use to scrape the inside of your cheek. When you’ve done that, each swab then gets placed inside a vial with a small amount of preservative fluid. But the vials themselves are hidden away at the bottom of the cheek swab kit — not easy to spot at first glance. Not to worry — they’re there.

Postage has to be added to the return envelope so don’t just drop it in the mail. And results should be available in six to eight weeks.

But you’re not done yet. You have to register the kit at the Geno 2.0 website. Registration allows you to follow the progress of your kit and then to see the results when they’re available.

One more thing: in the registration process, you’re asked if you’d be willing to contribute your information to science:

You can play an active role in the historic quest to map the genetic journey of all humans by choosing to contribute your result to scientific research. Please help grow our knowledge of the migratory journey of all humans through this phase of the project.

If you agree to participate, the genetic data from your test and some of the answers to questions in your profile will be included in our database of global genetic information and linked to your Genographic ID code. Inclusion in the global database is your choice and is not necessary to access your individual results.

Personally, I can’t imagine choosing not to participate. No health-related data is being recorded in this testing; it’s mostly deep genetic ancestry. I’d certainly encourage anybody doing this testing to say yes to inclusion in scientific database for the project.

So now it’s a matter of waiting — something I don’t do very well. But at least in the interim, there’s lots of information available on the Geno 2.0 website, with links for The Science Behind, For Scientists, For Educators, a newsletter, frequently asked questions and even a glossary.

Sigh… has it been six weeks yet???


Disclaimer: I received my Geno 2.0 kit for free from National Geographic. The only “string” attached was my attendance at a webinar announcing the new project. What I write about it, when, etc., is entirely my choice.

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11 Responses to DNA: the basics and way beyond

  1. Nan Harvey says:

    I started my DNA journey several years ago with Nat Geo 1.0, a kit for myself and one for my brother. We moved both results to FTDNA and have done more extensive testing since then. For him it’s 67 markers on the Y and some deep clade testing. For me it turned into the full mtDNA and Family Finder (for which I had to provide more DNA samples). I bought two Nat Geo 2.0 kits. I gave one to my son to get him started on his Y and admixture. That kit is already in the mail back to Nat Geo. The other will go to my brother to add to his results. I’m looking forward not only to our personal results but to seeing where the Nat Geo 2.0 pushes DNA research.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Another DNA geek! Love it, Nan. I know you’re a cousin to my Buchanan cousin but one of these days we’ll have to sit down and see if we can figure out where (to see if your line and mine overlap!). And I’m not sure I have your brother’s name to compare it to my family’s results…

  2. Jim Poole says:

    One suggested blog topic for you would be to explain what, if anything, this National Geographic test would add to results already obtained from FTDNA or similar service. I understand what’s in it for National Geographic: more data points=> better analysis. But being already $wabbed and te$ted by FTDNA, what do I get for another another ca$h outlay?

    I understand y-dna testing. But I’ve yet to find any really convincing evidence that any of the autosomal dna tests, “family finders”, or comprehensive tests like National Geographic really add enough information to justify the co$t for a low budget do-it-yourself family historian like me.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Jim, for you, the answer might very well be “not enough to make it worth it.” If you have the answers you need from the YDNA testing you’ve already done, why do anything more? Me, I have a ton of brick walls I could use help with, plus I just plain think it’s fun. Some people buy boats, some people take up skiing, me I buy DNA tests.

      • Jim Poole says:

        Well, thanks for confirming my suspicion- I was actually hoping I was wrong and there was a genetic miracle around the proverbial corner but life’s too complicated for that, I suppose.

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          The problem is that there very well may be a genetic miracle around the corner… but we won’t know that for a while. This Geno 2.0 test should refine both YDNA and mtDNA results to a degree never before seen. But nobody can promise exactly how that will play out from a genealogical standpoint. We can hope that it will help us say that particular person descends from that particular son of that particular ancestor, but nobody can promise that now.

  3. Jeff says:

    I “love it” when you channel your inner DNA geek! It is so, what’s the word that I am looking for? (vbg)

  4. Nia Redmond says:

    Hello,
    Connecting from a community in East Baltimore undergoing the largest urban renewal project in the country. Project is
    a part of Johns Hopkins expansion of their EB Campus.

    The indigenous community in partnership w/Hopkins has created the East Baltimore Historical Library. We are scheduled
    to formally open in 2013 , as part of a JHU built and operated k-8 school. We are very excited about this Genographic Project,
    and Geno 2.0 and the implications of creatively engaging teachers, students, and families to participate in genographic research.

    The school is the first school to be built in our city in over 30 yrs, so the entire city is waiting its arrival w/bated breath. What a
    wonderful addition this geno research will be to enriching educational initiatives at our new community school.

    I am sure, you will be hearing from us soon. We consider finding this site, an exciting Holiday gift ! -Happy Holidays,
    Nia Redmond,
    Co-Founder
    East Balimore Historical Library

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      We’d love to hear more about your participation in the citizen science part of Geno 2.0 when your new program is up and running!

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