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YOUR “FAMILY” SECRETS
BLAINE BETTINGER
lawyer by day, biochemistry Ph.D. and genetic genealogy expert by night

"Everyone has both a genetic tree and a genealogical tree. Your genealogical tree includes all your ancestors. Your genetic tree is comprised of a small, random assortment of ancestors who contributed DNA to your genome. Ancestry testing applies only to these people. With this limitation in mind, let’s look at what it offers.

An especially exciting product is the admixture analysis, which determines for each segment of DNA whether it was likely to have been inherited from ancestors in Africa, Asia (including Native Americans), or Europe: my 23andMe test suggests that I am 97.89 percent European, 1.84 percent Asian, and 0.27 percent African. Results can differ from company to company based on which genetic variants, reference populations, and algorithms are used. My deCODEme analysis suggests I am 87 percent European, 9 percent Asian, and 4 percent African. You can also identify and connect with “genetic cousins,” i.e., people who inherited DNA from the same common ancestor."

Read more on Bettinger’s blog.

MARY’S TAKE: I’m my family’s official record-keeper and I can track my ancestors back to 1638, when one of them first showed up in America. In other words, I find traditional genealogy entertaining—so wouldn’t it be cool to augment what I already know? Yet even with ancestry testing there are ethical and medical questions to consider.

I tucked all my essays and interview notes away and decided to tackle the topic from a new angle, which I’ll explore tomorrow: whether or not I could trust the results of a DTC test, and whether I should worry about what I might find out.

 

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