NEW MADISON – The New Madison Public Library hosted a presentation on genetic genealogy Friday evening. Kellen Freeman, a technology training specialist at the Delaware County District Library, presented.
Freeman’s presentation, titled “So You’ve Spit in a Tube — What’s Next?,” shared how DNA testing can help library patrons, including adoptees searching for biological parents or other long-lost relations, conduct genealogy research. Freeman compared the methodologies used by two popular genetic genealogy research companies, Ancestry.com and 23andMe, as well as discussing some pros and cons of sending one’s DNA out into the online world.
Freeman’s knowledge about the world of genetic genealogy research is largely self-taught.
“When I stumble across something I’m not sure of, I like to dig in and figure it out,” Freeman said.
DNA is made up of chains of amino acids and is found in every living organism. Humans share 94 percent of their DNA with all other human beings, and half of the remaining 6 percent with parents, children and siblings.
DNA testing kits generally cost about $100, according to Freeman, and are available online or at retailers such as Walmart, Target and CVS. The kits contain a vial which the buyer must fill with at least 1 milliliter of saliva.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot until you’re doing it,” Freeman said.
Once sent in to the testing company, the DNA in the vials is analyzed, producing results that can tell which part of the world ancestors hailed from, as well as creating “matches” with other users on the site who have chosen to make their results public. Freeman has discovered a few distant cousins in this fashion. The site 23andMe also is approved by the FDA to test for possible genetic predispositions to certain diseases.
Though making results shareable with other members is optional, Freeman stressed there are still privacy concerns that can arise.
“Your privacy and the internet do not get along,” Freeman said.
A user on the website Reddit, for instance, decided to buy DNA testing kits for her entire family as Christmas gifts, according to Freeman, which resulted in her mother being forced to reveal that her eldest daughter had actually been fathered by someone other than the man she knew as her father.
“You can’t unlearn something about yourself,” Freeman cautioned.
Public testing results also have been used to identify suspects in criminal investigations. The Golden State Killer — a sexual predator who terrorized California during the 1970s and ’80s — was identified after 30 years when an old DNA sample was submitted to one of the sites and analyzed, resulting in a match with several distant relatives.
Freeman suggested that users read the terms of service of their testing company of choice thoroughly, as well obtaining consent before sending anyone else’s DNA to be analyzed.
The event kicked off the New Madison library’s One Book, Many Communities promotion, which is being held in conjunction with nine libraries in Arcanum, Bradford, Piqua, Tipp City, Union and Troy, as well as the library at Edison State Community College. Patrons taking part in the promotion will read and discuss the novel “The One” by British author John Marrs. Marrs will conduct a Skype chat with library patrons April 10.
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