Monday, July 17, 2006

Genetic Genealogy Article: 7.5

As I mentioned a few days ago, I've decided to start rating mainstream media articles on genetic genealogy. I'm still playing with names for the rating system. What do you think of a Gigi Score? I often use "gg" as an abbreviation for "genetic genealogy," so I'm thinking this might be an appropriate name for my little rating system. Any opinions?

Anyway, there's another article of interest today in The Saginaw News, entitled Finding the lost tribe Science gives people with lost history a glimpse at origins (phew! out of breath!).

I'm giving this one a 7.5 out of 10. It focuses on the roots of an African-American woman who took a test from African Ancestry. I found it slightly confusing because it interweaves her genetic results with her family history lore, and it's not entirely clear where the two intersect. Also, the article neglects to mention an important nuance of this particular testing -- that it's slightly overstating things to say that her direct maternal line (I believe this is the line she tested) definitely came from the Hausa and Masa tribes of current-day Cameroon. It's very possible over time that this same genetic signature will be found elsewhere in Africa, given that mankind has longer to migrate in Africa than anyplace else. So these results are a strong indication, but fall shy of absolute fact. If you caught PBS's African-American Lives earlier this year, you know what I'm talking about. Most of the featured celebrities found that their genetic signatures matched folks in perhaps 4 of 5 places around Africa.

Having said that, virtually every article on African Ancestry tests neglects to mention this. And aside from that, the piece is well-balanced -- not wildly pro-genetealogy, nor anti-genetealogy. And perhaps this is biasing me, but I'm quoted a couple of times in the article -- and I'm quoted accurately! And that hardly ever happens.

P.S. One other tiny quibble -- the piece notes that mtDNA "is passed from mother to daughter without much change." Yes, this is true -- and in the context of the testing that was done, it's a key point. But just to be technically correct, mtDNA is passed by mothers to both their sons and their daughters. But the sons don't pass it on; they become a genetic dead-end for mtDNA.

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