How Accurate Ancestry Dna Test – Elizabeth Watt and Sean Lehmann do not work for, consult with, own stock in, or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant relationships beyond their professional appointments.
The technologies of DNA amplification, sequencing and comparison have created new opportunities in genomic science. In this series When DNA Speaks we consider the ethical and social implications.
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The excitement started with celebrities like Jessica Alba and Snoop Dogg – and has now spread to hundreds of video bloggers revealing their origins with dancing, shouting, cheers and tears.
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These tests claim to reveal deep origins, and the majority of public users of the technology are black Americans seeking information about their African ancestry.
Acceptance of direct-to-consumer genetic testing has been slow in Australia. Here, it is complicated by debates outside and within the indigenous community – with some leaders calling for greater regulation to prevent “fakes” or “rogues” who call themselves indigenous.
One of the authors of this article – Sean Lehmann – was inadvertently drawn into this debate after receiving the results of his DNA test a few years ago.
Sean had more professional reasons for doing the test than most: he was teaching human genetic diversity at the Australian National University at the time and wanted to use his genetic data as a teaching tool.
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He also had personal questions about his maternal grandmother, who died when he was a small child. He grew up without a mother and spoke little about his background.
Since they were directly related by blood, Sean knew that his grandmother, and therefore a wonderful great grandmother, had given him his mitochondrial genome.
Mitochondria are the tiny organelles that produce energy in our cells. While the genome in the nucleus of our cells – our 23 pairs of chromosomes – contains a mix of DNA from our biological mother and father, the small mitochondrial genome is passed on through the egg and thus reflects a single line of maternal descent. .
What Sean didn’t know at the time, and what the test revealed, was that his mitochondrial genome fell into a haplogroup (a group of similar mitochondrial genomes) called “S2”, which is only seen in Aboriginal Australians.
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With mitochondrial DNA, Sean knew where to look in his genealogy to learn more. In fact, he recently found records that his grandmother’s family were Aboriginal from the Albany region of Western Australia. With this information in hand, Sean was able to trace his family back to Noongar relatives.
Sean’s discovery was certainly aided by the fact that he was a geneticist and could interpret the results of his DNA tests. More important, however, was that his original lineage was in his direct maternal line.
Mitochondrial DNA is a reliable source of genetic information about Aboriginal ancestry, but it can be of little help if your Aboriginal ancestors reside elsewhere in your family. That is, it is only necessary to trace directly from mother to grandmother to great-grandmother and so on.
Most of the “ethnic split” DNA results that bloggers share publicly come from testing companies that compare their nuclear DNA with material from different ethnic groups. The tests focus on differences in specific regions of the gene – known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.
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One company that offers tests that claim to identify Indigenous Australians uses a technique that compares sequences in genes known as Short Tandem Repeats, or STRs. STR data from around the world is widely available in the forensic literature as it is widely used in criminal investigations and paternity testing.
Ethical and scientific concerns have been raised regarding the use of STR data for ancestry trade experiments. For example, it is difficult to know how companies obtain their reference samples.
The case of American blogger Lisa Garrigues is an example. Garrigues made the attempt in 2010 – reportedly giving him the “World’s Highest Number of High Definition Matches” as an “African-Aboriginal”.
He was happy with this discovery, but he also has doubts – his family has nothing to do with the southern world. Lisa and her father later did a more detailed DNA test, and it showed no Aboriginal ancestry.
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In our personal communication with one of the genealogists working with Lisa, Doug MacDonald suggests that such discrepancies are very common – STR markers are not designed for pedigree tests, but for matching individuals.
We must check the misinformation and unethical practices regarding genealogy testing. But even where the science is reliable, like Shawn’s mitochondrial DNA test, the implications of identifying genetic origins are unclear.
Sean was proud to learn about his ancestry and has been in touch with his relatives ever since. He also delves into his grandmother’s past to discover if her estrangement from her mother was influenced by the politics behind the Stolen Generations.
Existing research suggests that there are many endings to journeys like Shawn’s. Bindi Bennett’s work highlights how young, light people with no previous connection to Aboriginal society can develop a strong Indigenous identity, even in the face of opposition from that community.
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But Fiona Noble’s 1996 research with Queenslanders who discovered their ancestry late suggests that many of these people see their heritage as important but not all-encompassing.
As Regina Ganter points out, the ‘in-between’ nature of these ‘half steps’ is not well recognized by contemporary politics and discourse – which tend to position Aboriginality as an either/or identity.
Although Noble and Bennett’s research participants discovered their heritage through documents or family stories rather than genetics, their work provides a window into a future where many Australians discover their ancestry through DNA tests.
Undoubtedly, the inevitable collision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia with direct-to-consumer genetic testing will continue to raise challenging questions about ancestry and identity in the 21st century. Consumer DNA testing is becoming increasingly popular. More than 15 million people have already had their DNA tested to learn more about their family origins. Despite its growing popularity, many myths persist. Here are 5 myths about taking a DNA® test.
I Took Ancestry’s Dna Test. Here’s What I Discovered.
Myth 1: If your sibling has had a DNA® test, you already know what your results will be. We get 50% of our DNA from each parent, so only identical twins have the same DNA. Therefore, unless you are an identical twin, your DNA® test result will differ from your sibling.
Take the results of sisters, Lisa and Franceen, who share the same set of biological parents. Sisters Lisa and Franceen have different DNA® test results. While Lisa had British in her DNA, her sister Franceen did not.
Myth 2: Like all DNA tests, DNA® requires a blood sample. Fortunately for those who fear needles, the DNA Test® uses a simple saliva sample to test your DNA. Although you may feel a little silly, preparing a sample is relatively quick, with some hard science involved.
Myth 3: If you know your family history, a DNA® test will certainly not surprise you. Some people know a lot about their family history. They have many stories and pictures, and may even have many family trees that go back centuries. But even family historians may be surprised.
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Myth 4: Once you have a DNA® test, you do not retain ownership of your DNA. Many people wonder if once you take a DNA® test, you no longer own your data. DNA® does not claim ownership of DNA submitted for testing. You own your DNA. See the privacy center for more information.
Myth 5: A DNA® test will only reveal your ethnic mix. You may have heard stories of people who were surprised to find out where their DNA comes from. But that’s not all the DNA test tells you. It also shows you “DNA Matches,” which are other people taking DNA® tests to whom you may be related.
The DNA® Test shows you other test users who may be related to you. You may find that you relate to your partner, like Nicka and Crista. Or you might find a long-lost Irish relative. You’ve seen the ads: genealogy tests that can connect you to long-lost relatives and, with a small saliva sample, map your roots. I took the test
I’m not British. This surprised me a little, given that I was born in London to parents who themselves were born in London, with a family history as East End pub crawlers going back at least to the 1860s.
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But according to the DNA kit from Ancestry.com I am only 9% British. It tells me that I am 47% Irish, 33% Belgian/Dutch/German/French and 7% Scandinavian. But how much should we trust these DNA kits that are heavily advertised on television – and more importantly, what are they doing with our detailed DNA data? Share it with anyone else in the world seems to be the answer.
Two weeks ago I received an email that at first I thought was a scam. It was
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