Saturday, February 4, 2012

Roots into the Future, part two

Last year I received a free autosomal DNA testing kit from 23andMe.com through their Roots into the Future program.  According to their website, the purpose of the program is to increase understanding of the link between DNA and disease in African Americans.

The person who ended up using the kit was someone whose background I had researched in the past with little success.  She was raised in an orphanage in Genesee County, New York and had only the name of her mother.  The name was common, of course, and I was not lacking in finding thousands of women with the same exact name.  She submitted the kit in December and the results took about six weeks.

She was matched up with 44 other genetic relations.  This does not provide much to work with.  (For perspective, the other accounts that I manage have far more matches.  My mother and I have about 1300 each, while my father and his third cousin have around 600 each.)  The closest relation shares 0.50% over four segments.  This is outside the parameters for an accurate prediction of the closeness of the relation, but it can be characterized as distant.  The "Show Close Relatives" icon appeared and pressed it.  No other matches appeared.  I am not sure if this means that there are close relatives lurking in the database.  I initiated contact with all relations and just a few have responded.  They are related beyond a third cousin level, so we cannot map out this elusive family tree yet.

Autosomal DNA testing will reveal relatives and can be very useful in cases such as this when parentage is unknown.  But unless a very close relation surfaces and agrees to communicate, we will only have vague notions of possible ancestors.

Your identity is concealed from "close" relatives- first cousins and nearer.  Both parties must consent to be revealed.
23andMe.com provides an additional warning before you consent to view close relatives.
It is possible to discover that your parents were not biologically related to you,
or that a parent or aunt/uncle had children you were not aware of.