Vol. 1 No. 6 Sep 2008
From the Director
Comparison DNA Databases: The Numbers Game
Here is the scenario: You take a DNA test, your
results come in, and you
have no matches! What? How could
you not have a match? You are mtDNA
H or Y-DNA R1b, so you should
have LOTS of matches! The databases are
overflowing with H and
testing for genealogy has been available for eight years
those eight years, over 800,000
people have DNA tested. While that
may seem like a large number, I
will go over how that number is arrived at and
for looking at it.
First, I e-mailed
companies to inquire their database size if they do not list
their websites and if it has not appeared in a recent media article.
GeoGene replied that they had 1,000+ samples and GeneTrack stated that
"Last year, our laboratory processed over 95,000 individual DNA tests
Family Tree DNA
Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (92,000) all have
numbers listed on their websites or in recent media articles which
hyperlinked to their names. I did not receive replies from Ethnoancestry, Oxford Ancestors, or GeneTree; and DNA Heritage and
DNA-Ancestry (formerly Relative Genetics) would not disclose their
numbers. But this is not going to thwart me in the numbers game as there
is some "guesstimating" that can be done here.
In a November 2007 blog article, "How
Big is the Genetic Genealogy Market?" Blaine Bettinger
quoted an EMBO article which gave 300,000 attributed to the databases of
Family Tree DNA, Oxford Ancestors, and DNA Print Genomics. Since
we know that Family Tree DNA has tested over 200,000, then we can slice
the last 100,000 in half for the other two companies. Bettinger's
article also gave a number for Relative Genetics (19,000) in 2002.
It should have at least doubled since then and the company which bought
the database, DNA-Ancestry, says that they "shipped over 5,000 kits" in
July. So my guesstimate is 43,000 for them.
DNA Heritage sponsors Y-Base, a public database where users can upload
their results. The number of records in Y-Base is 12,993.
However, this raises an important factor in database numbers - overlap.
Y-Base not only contains records for DNA-Heritage clients, but for
clients of other companies as well as they may manually add their
results to the database. Another instance of overlap occurs with
Family Tree DNA and Genographic's numbers as customers of either company
can elect to upload their results to the other. For example, a
recent Genographic transfer from August 28 had a kit number starting
with N66,XXX so that means that over 66,000 people have transferred
their results into Family Tree DNA's database from the Genographic
Yet another case of overlap
will occur with GeneTree and Sorensen Molecular Foundation (SMGF).
For a period of time since GeneTree's re-launch last October 2007, they
have allowed people who have tested with SMGF to transfer their results
into GeneTree's database for a fee.
Obviously, database overlap will affect the true numbers of how many
people have tested, and a small percentage of people test at multiple
DNA companies. But there is also the factor that there are
affiliate companies which may overlap and small DNA companies in other
countries that might not be included in the numbers. One such
company that I had never heard of until reading Bettinger's article is
The grand total of numbers
cited here comes to 795,936. Only Y-chromosome DNA and mtDNA
genealogical DNA testing numbers were requested and there are amounts
which are not included for aforementioned reasons which pushes the
figure to over 800,000.
To put this number
in perspective, 795,000 is the population of Oslo, Norway and
Indianapolis, Indiana. Do you think that if everyone in Oslo or
Indianapolis took a DNA test, that they would all have a match? Of
course they wouldn't because not everyone in those cities are closely
related. But more importantly, it shows
just how small a number it really is. While Oslo and Indianapolis
are major metropolitan cities, they do not seem very large when you
compare them to the size of the countries or continents they are in.
This illustrates how someone can be Y-DNA R1b or mtDNA H and not
have a match. They will need to sit tight and wait for a one, but
it will happen. Oslo wasn't built in a day...nor in eight years.
Recognizes Ian Logan
If you do not know who Ian
Logan is, you are missing out! Ian has been a consistent
contributor to the genetic genealogy community for years now; especially
in the field of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). A resident of Devon, England,
Ian spends countless hours
amassing data which he compiles on his helpful
He has also written a
for the Greasemonkey utility which allows one to search GenBank for
The scientific community is
now benefiting from Ian's work as well. His websites were cited
in two recently published studies: "Exaggerated status of "novel"
and "pathogenic" mtDNA sequence variants due to inadequate database
searches" and "Pseudo-mitochondrial genome haunts disease
Thank you, Ian! Keep up the great work and know
Turner Surname DNA Project
For the first surname DNA project to be featured in
the ISOGG newsletter, the question was asked of the ISOGG forum to
nominate a, "surname project that is administered in an outstanding
manner?" And the winner is....
Gail R. Blancett,
Administrator of the
Turner DNA Project!
"Gail is a researcher, problem-solver, and teacher
in the finest sense of the word. She is constantly engaged in searching
and analyzing all available records that may clarify genealogical
relationships. She refuses to leave a stone unturned as long as any
question remains unanswered. Her first love is collecting all available
information, piecing it all together in a logically unassailable
fashion, and helping her project members to understand the process she
has gone through. Perhaps the toughest part of the job for her to deal
with is the people who refuse to abandon the family myths and lore in
the face of clear and abundant documentation to the contrary.
The Turner DNA Project
was founded in 2002 by Nancy Grogan and Gail came aboard as a
co-administrator. In early 2005, Nancy passed away
unexpectedly and Gail assumed full project administration
For those who may not know, DNA project
administration is a volunteer job which involves many countless
hours of assembling data, recruiting participants, answering
Gail inherited a large project for a
common surname and has done an outstanding job with it. Following is a
description from one of her nominations which says it all:
She truly loves the
search, the process of discovery and analysis, and the thrill that comes
from helping her project members reconnect to their roots. She is truly
awesome as a project administrator. Others may have fancier web sites or
other terrific attributes, but I suspect that if put to a vote, many of
her 300-plus members would speak up for her as their favorite."
found at Cupids archeological dig - The Telegram - 14 Sep 2008
DNA testing helps connect the branches on family trees -
Pittsburgh-Tribune Review - 10 Sep 2008
Human geography is mapped in the genes - News Scientist - 31 Aug
Trying to Prove Family Link To a Noted Founding Father -
Washingtonpost.com 24 Aug 2008
ultimate family tree - BBC News - 21 Aug 2008
For more articles:
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