Thursday 30 May 2019

Using genetic genealogy databases in missing persons cases and to develop suspect leads in violent crimes

Last year I was invited by Rob Davis, an editor at Forensic Science International, to write an article about the privacy issues relating to the use of genetic genealogy in cold cases. My article "Using genetic genealogy databases in missing persons cases and to develop suspect leads in violent crimes" has gone through the peer review process and has now been published online. You can access the full article through my special author's link which will be valid until 19th July 2019:

I hope the article will educate people about all the issues involved and encourage policy makers to work on some suitable best practice guidelines to ensure that the technology can be used both effectively and responsibly.

You can see the full list of articles in the special Cold Case issue here.

Sunday 26 May 2019

A major milestone was passed this week by AncestryDNA who announced that their "consumer DNA network has reached over 15 million completed samples".

We are seeing a rapid growth in the ancestry testing market in the UK. According to a YouGov survey last month an estimated 4.7 million Brits have already used a DNA testing service.  AncestryDNA do not give breakdowns by country but anecdotally we know that they have the largest market share in the UK and it seems likely that perhaps as many as two million Brits are already in the AncestryDNA database.

Below is the press release I received from AncestryDNA which also includes news of some updates expected later this year.
LEHI, Utah and SAN FRANCISCO, California, Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - Today Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, announced its consumer DNA network has reached over 15 million completed samples. With the company’s growing network and innovative research tools, Ancestry can now provide customers with even more DNA matches, further detailed ethnicity insights, and ultimately, help more people around the globe discover their unique family story. 
“I have had a front row seat as the genetic genealogy industry has grown from a spark of an idea to a global phenomenon that has made statements like ‘My DNA says I am...’ commonplace in grocery stores, office buildings and family dinners,” said Diahan Southard, founder and author of Your DNA Guide and genetic genealogy educator. “Ancestry has been at the forefront of innovation and played a central role in this growth by making science exciting for everyone and providing meaningful insights into our origins and relationships. Every researcher knows that the more data we have, the more complete our story. With a network this large, coupled with millions of digitized records, everyone is sure to find out more about their own story.” 
“Ancestry is honored to play a role in empowering the journeys of personal discovery for 15 million people around the world,” said Cathy Ball, Chief Scientific Officer, Ancestry. “The size of this community is a true sign of how deeply important it is for people to connect and learn about their past. As the network continues to grow, we can deliver even more value to our members, including more granular insights about heritage, and provide compelling new paths to learn about ourselves using genetics.” 
The growing AncestryDNA network, combined with cutting-edge technology and content additions, gives new and existing Ancestry members ongoing value and new, rich information with their DNA results: 
New Communities: As the AncestryDNA network grows, Ancestry scientists are able to refine and discover more communities using Ancestry’s patented Genetic Communities™ technology – a proprietary technology that can connect people through their DNA to the places their ancestors lived and the paths they followed to get there over the past 75-300 years. Ancestry recently released 94 new and updated AncestryDNA communities for customers of African American and Afro-Caribbean descent, with even more communities launching soon. 
Refined Ethnicity Insights: As more people take the AncestryDNA test, Ancestry scientists are able to add additional samples to the reference panel, paving the way for more refined insights for members about their genetically inherited ethnicity. Thanks to the largest consumer DNA network, AncestryDNA is preparing another update for later this year which will include new ethnic regions, providing members with a more detailed view of their heritage. 
Even More Matches and Customer Discoveries: The size of the AncestryDNA network directly increases the quality and quantity of discoveries people can make using tools such as DNA Matches, and one of our newest features, ThruLines™. ThruLines (currently in BETA) can show common ancestors that members may share with their DNA matches and give a clear and simple view of how all matches are connected through that shared ancestor. With this innovation, combined with millions of Ancestry member trees, family tree building has never been easier, and the discoveries people can make are unprecedented. Additionally, now that the AncestryDNA network has over 15 million members, each AncestryDNA customer receives an average of 50,000 total matches – and that number grows by 2%-5% each month as more people join the network.