Reconstructing ancestors’ genomes using DNA data from descendants

| | December 18, 2014
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David Speegle was a preacher in Alabama in the 1800s. Apparently he was very serious about the Bible’s charge to “be fruitful and multiply.” He had 26 children and more than 150 grandchildren. From there, the numbers of his descendants expanded. Today, there are so many Speegle descendants in the United States that a popular family history website, Ancestry.com, was able to reconstruct large portions of Speegle’s and his spouses’ genomes using only data from its customers.

Ancestry.com geneticists have reconstructed enough of Speegle and his two wives’ DNA that they’ve found about 50 percent of all of the genes you would expect in one person, the company announced today. The reconstruction project offers a glimpse into the biology of people who lived 200 years ago, done entirely without taking hair or other bits from Speegle and his wives. Pretty cool. The project also shows the collective power of the family trees and DNA samples Ancestry.com holds in its possession.

“We have well over half a million genotype samples from our database and many, if not most, of the samples are associated with gigantic family trees that a lot of people have been spending years building,” Catherine Ball, vice president of genomics for Ancestry.com, tells Popular Science. That data, which Ancestry.com users upload when they use the site, were crucial to the reconstruction project.

Read full, original article: Ancestry.com reconstructs genomes of 19th-century couples using customers’ DNA

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