2013 DNA retrospective
Here we are, in the last days of 2013, and today is the last DNA Sunday of the year.
So it’s time to stop for a moment, and reflect.
What were the top DNA stories for the year?
The Legal Genealogist submits that it will come as no surprise that the one that was number one both in my heart and in the top 10 for readers for the year was this one:
And the answer is…. This February 4 post resulted from the discovery of a skeleton under a car park in Leicester, England. A skeleton that might be, could be, ought to be, could it be? Richard III. The post began:
“The Legal Genealogist is not a morning person. To put it mildly. Generally speaking when I’m up at 5 a.m. it’s because I haven’t been to bed yet.
But I had to know… couldn’t wait… would it be, could it be…?”
And the answer… oh the answer… was a win for genetic genealogy. So very exciting to see DNA providing clues to one of history’s persistent mysteries. You can read more in another of the top posts of 2013 — Rewriting history through DNA (3 February): “Once upon a time, a long long time ago, The Legal Genealogist was a bored and snotty kid. (Enough with the “what do you mean was” comments, already yet.)”
What an absolutely wonderful way to begin the year!
It would have been nice if we’d ended the year on the same sort of high note — but the 23andMe debacle with the FDA eliminated any chance of that. Making the top-posts list on that disaster were two posts:
• Fooling with FDA (26 November): “So you remember that old commercial where a margarine company gave Mother Nature a taste of its product and she thought it was butter. The tagline of all the commercials — just before something bad happened — was: ‘It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.’ Yesterday, news reports revealed that the DNA testing company 23andMe got the 21st-century regulatory version of that tagline: it’s not nice to fool with the FDA.”
• 23andMe suspends health tests (6 December): “DNA testing company 23andMe yesterday suspended its health-related testing in compliance with an FDA directive issued last month. Ancestry-related DNA tests will continue without interruption and raw genetic data will continue to be available as well.”
And then, of course, in the middle between those two extremes, we had the up-down-sideways stories about the Myriad Genetics patent litigation:
• Our DNA can’t be patented (14 June): “In the late 1990s, the United States Patent Office issued patents to a Utah company on two human genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2, genes that — if present — cause a significantly elevated risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The patents gave the company — Myriad Genetics — a monopoly on testing women for the presence of those genes. Armed with its patents, the company went after academic and medical researchers to stop them from trying to test for the genes and jacked the price of its test up to as much as $4,000. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Patent Office was wrong.”
• Myriad sues genetic testing firms (11 July): “Anyone — like The Legal Genealogist — who hoped that the Supreme Court decision last month against Myriad Genetics and its monopoly on BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing for breast cancer would mean easier cheaper access to testing for the many women who need it has gotten a rude awakening in the last two days. The Utah-based Myriad has put the world on notice that it will fight to protect its monopoly.”
• Testing firms land counterpunch (18 August): “It’s been a rocky road for women who need, and can’t afford, genetic testing for breast cancer, but answers — and counterclaims — filed this week to lawsuits brought in the federal court in Utah should go a long way towards resolving, once and for all, whether Myriad Genetics will be able to protect its high-priced monopoly.”
Other posts making the most-read list for 2013:
• Update: More bang for DNA test bucks (28 July): “Fourteen months ago, The Legal Genealogist led off a Sunday DNA blog by asking “how do you get the most bang for the DNA buck?” Enough has changed in the last 14 months to warrant another look at the answer. ”
• Widen the net (7 April): “One piece of advice you hear over and over in autosomal DNA testing: test as many relatives as you can afford to test. And boy did The Legal Genealogist get handed the best evidence in the world as to why that’s good advice this past week.”
• DNA: life after death (30 June): “Do the next of kin of a deceased person have the right to ask a funeral director to take a DNA sample after death?”
• Making AncestryDNA useful (2 June): “one of the big complaints I’ve had about AncestryDNA from the outset is the absence of any method to search for a match by username or search all matches for a common surname. And there isn’t any easy way to compare my matches to the matches of my first-cousin-and-genealogy-buddy Paula to see who we might match in common. As of last night, that all changed. One simple browser plug-in and I can now do all of those things — and more.”
• AncestryDNA begins rollout of update (13 September): “AncestryDNA rolled out its new Ethnicity Estimate Preview to some 6,000 of its autosomal DNA customers for a first look yesterday, with a broader rollout to all customers within the next month or so.”
• DNA disappointment (15 September): “Unlike many AncestryDNA customers who thought their old ethnicity estimates were way off, I thought my old ones were probably pretty close, except for what I thought was a high estimate of Scandinavian since I have no known Scandinavian ancestry. They seemed to reflect pretty well my 50% German ancestry from my father and my mother’s more mixed but largely British and Scots-Irish … heritage. The new estimates… well…”
On to 2014…
I’m finally jumping on the DNA bandwagon this week and ordering tests for myself and a couple of carefully selected relatives (this is as much as I can afford at the moment). I’ve periodically reviewed your DNA posts over the past several months as I tried to figure out which company to go with, which relatives to ask to test, etc. Thank you so much (again!) for all the time and effort you put into your blog! I know I’ll be revisiting some of your DNA posts once I get my results.
Just a warning: you’re about to get officially hooked. It’s addicting!
Looking forward to your lecture and recap of this in Richmond.
Thanks, Candace! Let’s hope we all have some good news to report by then.
My son surprised my with a 23andme DNA test for my birthday last year, – and what a learning curve! I wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences and information on DNA legal issues. Also, The Legal Genealogist blog, throughout 2013, has informed, enlightened, charmed and touched me. I wanted to say thank you for that and wish you a very Happy New Year!
Thanks so very much for the kind words, Christine! Glad I could help a little with the learning curve.
I’ve done the 110 marker Y-DNA test with FamilyTreeDNA, have results for the Big-Y coming.
One question — any suggestions as to how one can best/most easily persuade other suspected close-ish male line kin to test with a Y-DNA test too (even the 67 marker test)?
I’m happy to pick up the tab for these, or to contribute (and generously so) — I just want to know (HAVE to know!) if their forebears (who I have traced to the same locality as my own ca. 1750) are/are not closely related, because that just opens up and confirms my paper trail and family-story-based researching (or causes me much disappointment and grief!).
As you know, there are so damn few Irish records pre-dating the 1860s ….
Dave, the fastest way I’ve found is to promise the person to protect his/her individual anonymity. I’ve offered to have the person use a pseudonym for testing, use my email address for all contacts and promise never to disclose anything about the person to anyone else except that (in one case, as one example) the person tested was the great grandchild of a particular person of interest.
Many thanks for these wise and practical suggestions!
Thanks for the kind words, Dave!