Friday, 27 November 2015

Full Genomes winter discount

Full Genomes Corporation have announced a winter sale (or summer sale if you're in the southern hemisphere!). The tests offered by this company are suitable for the very advanced genetic genealogists in our community.

There is a $100 discount on the Y Elite test if you use the following code:


This brings the price down to US $675.

The Y Elite is a comprehensive Y-chromosome sequencing test, which is used for the discovery of new SNPs. It is currently the most advanced Y-DNA test on the market, and the only next generation sequencing Y-DNA test which offers a read length of 250 bps.

If you're thinking of taking a Y Elite test it's best to make sure that you join the appropriate Y-DNA haplogroup project so that you can share your results with the volunteer admins.

There are also discounts on the whole genome sequencing tests from Full Genomes. A report on the Y-chromosome is included with this test, but the autosomal DNA results are provided without medical interpretation or advice. However, users can upload their data to third party tools such as Promethease, which accepts VCF files from Full Genomes.

The 30x whole genome is now $1600 (reduced from $1850), a saving of 13.5%

There is a 10% reduction on the other whole genome sequencing tests:

10x is $670 instead of $745
4x   is $337 instead of $375
2x   is $225 instead of $250

These offers are only available for a limited time so if you are thinking of ordering don't delay.

For further information about any of these tests contact Full Genomes via their website at

For a comparison of the different SNP testing options see the ISOGG Y-SNP testing chart.

AncestryDNA sale for the "Black Friday" weekend

AncestryDNA have announced a flash sale for what is now known as "Black Friday", the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday. The AncestryDNA test is on sale in the UK for £69 plus £20 for shipping so it will cost you £89 in total. The sale lasts until 11.59 pm GMT on 30 November. This is the lowest price ever for the AncestryDNA test in the UK. For further information go to:

Ancestry also has sales on in Australia, Canada and the United States. Here are the prices and the links to the various country websites:

- Australia AUS$119 + $29.99 for shipping 

- Canada CAD$119 + $19.95 shipping

- United States US$69 + $9.95 for shipping:

It will not escape anyone's attention that the AncestryDNA test is considerably cheaper in America than in any other country.

AncestryDNA is one of three companies that offer an autosomal DNA test for genealogy purposes. See Tim Janzen's autosomal DNA testing comparison chart in the ISOGG Wiki for a detailed comparison,

Family Tree DNA currently have a sale on until the end of the year. Their Family Finder autosomal DNA test is on sale for  US$ 89 +$9.95 for shipping. This works out at £67 in sterling prices. For details of the sale prices of the other FTDNA DNA tests see my blog post FTDNA Group Administrators' Conference 2015 and the FTDNA winter sale.

If you test with AncestryDNA you can transfer your results to Family Tree DNA using the autosomal DNA transfer programme. This will cost US $39, and is the cheapest way to be in the two databases. AncestryDNA do not accept transfers from Family Tree DNA.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

My review of DNA Cymru Part 2 - the controversy continues

I wrote earlier on this year about the controversy over the DNA Cymru series on the Welsh-language TV channel S4C. The first programme in the series was broadcast on St David's Day. A further four programmes were planned and the first of these was shown on Sunday. The programme can be seen on the BBC iPlayer with English subtitles, and is available online for the next 28 days. There is also a DNA Cymru website to accompany the new series.

The launch programme was widely criticised. (See for example this article from the Welsh blogger Jac o' the North, this article in Private Eye, and the BBC Radio 4 programme The Business of Genetic Ancestry.) It contained very little in the way of real science and was little more than a promotional tool for the commercial genetic ancestry business CymruDNAWales, one of the trading names of the Moffat Partnership, a company founded by the former journalist and TV executive Alistair Moffat. The editorial integrity of S4C was also brought into question when it transpired that Ian Jones, the CEO of S4C, was an old friend of Alistair Moffat's. One viewer lodged a complaint with S4C about the programme and this complaint is now being investigated by an independent editorial consultant who should be reporting back in the next few weeks

The criticisms clearly touched a raw nerve because in Sunday's programme some time was spent trying to address the concerns. However, the programme makers appear to have misunderstood the nature of the complaints, and they failed to tackle some of the biggest issues. The programme was also very one-sided and they did not give any of their critics the opportunity to voice their criticisms in person. Nevertheless it was a big improvement on the first programme, the claims were not quite so extravagant, and they did include some real science that was mixed in with the storytelling, although it is notable that the real science was coming from independent and credible scientists like Professor Dan Bradley and Professor Peter Donnelly, and not from the ‘tests’ performed by CymruDNAWales

The programme tried somewhat unnecessarily to defend the concept of phylogeography yet, as far as I'm aware, no scientist is critical of this concept. Phylogeography is the process of matching a genealogical lineage with its present-day geographical distribution. In human evolutionary studies the process is often applied to the phylogenetic trees of mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA. The mtDNA tree is published on the Phylotree website. ISOGG (the International Society of Genetic Genealogy) maintains the Y-DNA tree. There is also a minimal reference version of the Y-tree on the Phylotree website. The different branches of the Y-DNA and mtDNA trees refer to different haplogroups, and these haplogroups can be divided into subhaplogroups and ultimately haplotypes. The different branches of the Y-DNA and mtDNA tree often have distinct geographical distribution patterns. This information can in itself sometimes be informative for genealogical purposes and also for forensics.

While phylogeography in itself is a perfectly valid term to describe the present-day geographical distribution of known lineages, issues arise when it comes to making inferences about the geographical origins of those lineages in the past and of the population history that shaped the phylogeography.  The most common approach to this is known as interpretative phylogeography. It is the interpretative aspect that is questioned by the majority of population geneticists (Balloux 2009, Chikhi 2010, Goldstein and Chikhi 2002). Interpretative approaches are, by definition, highly subjective, and can easily be influenced by the preconceived biases or research agendas of the researchers.

By testing the Y-DNA and mtDNA of living people we can learn about the present-day distribution of the different haplogroups, but it is much more difficult to make inferences about the past from modern DNA. Our ancestry is convoluted and very complicated, and is confounded by migration, genetic drift and population size changes in the past. Throughout human history migration has been the rule rather than the exception, and we now know from empirical data that "the current inhabitants of a region are often poor representatives of the populations that lived there in the distant past" (Pickrell and Reich 2014). There is also considerable uncertainty in the dating of the different branches of the Y-DNA and mtDNA trees. Nevertheless, despite these limitations there are some researchers who still try to link Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups with specific tribes and historical events. It is, of course, very easy to make such associations and – given the flexibility of interpretative phylogeography – to make the data fit your favourite hypothesis, but there are almost always many different explanations that would fit the available data (Nielsen and Beaumont 2009).

In addition, Y-DNA and mtDNA represent an increasingly smaller percentage of our ancestry as we go further back in time, and consequently they are only weakly informative about our deep ancestry. Y-DNA and mtDNA are also more prone to the problems of genetic drift. However, despite the limitations for deep ancestry, Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are very useful for genealogical purposes where the results can be analysed in combination with genealogical and historical documents.

Ancient DNA is now beginning to transform our knowledge of the past. Although only a limited number of Y-DNA and mtDNA samples are available it is already very clear that the distribution and frequency of Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups were very different in the past. With the new next generation sequencing methodologies it is possible to sequence the entire genome whereas early ancient DNA studies focused mainly on mitochondrial DNA.

Real science
The DNA Cymru programme did feature some real science. There were interviews with Professor Sir Walter Bodmer and Professor Peter Donnelly from the People of the British Isles Project (POBI). This project is based at the University of Oxford. They published a landmark paper on the genetic composition of the British Isles earlier this year (Leslie et al 2015). The POBI paper was based on analysis of autosomal DNA, but Y-DNA and mtDNA have also been extracted, and Professor Mark Jobling at the University of Leicester is in the process of analysing these results. This should provide a useful insight into the geographical distributions of the Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups of the British Isles. It is strange that the programme makers do not seem to have been aware of this Y-DNA and mtDNA research prior to arranging their partnership with a commercial company to do the same type of testing.

Professor Dan Bradley of Trinity College Dublin was interviewed about his ancient DNA research. He is sequencing 30 DNA samples "across the whole pre-history of Ireland". He says "It's almost like dropping a plumb line through history". He cautioned about making inferences from modern DNA: "There's one problem about looking at the present to study the past, and that is, essentially, the past is a different country. The models we bring up from the present to understand the past may miss big things". He cited the example of Ötzi the Iceman who was found in the Alps but who has a genetic signature which is more like the people of the southern Mediterranean.

The programme also featured interviews with other academics. Archaeologist Rhys Mwyn described Brymbo Man, a Bronze Age skeleton whose burial was typical of the Beaker People. Brymbo Man's DNA has not yet been tested but it would be an interesting study. The linguist and historian John Koch discussed the migration of the Beaker People.

It is not clear how much the academics who agreed to appear on the programme knew about the nature of the collaboration with CymruDNAWales/ScotlandsDNA. The S4C website does state: It’s important to remember that - except where they comment specifically on screen in the programmes – their involvement should not be read as an endorsement of commercial DNA testing". I noticed earlier this week that the text had been changed to clarify that "their involvement should not be read as an endorsement of commercial DNA testing or inferences made from such data", no doubt after concerns were raised by some of the credible scientists interviewed.

Celebrity DNA
The credible science was interspersed with stories about three Welsh celebrities  Caryl Parry Jones, Roy Noble and Ken Owens – who received their DNA results from CymruDNAWales on the programme. Roy Noble was told that his G2a haplogroup was found in the first people who brought farming to Europe. Ken Owens was told that his R1b sub-haplogroup S145 (L21) was brought to Wales with the Beaker People. However, we do not have any way of knowing when these haplogroups appeared in Wales and this is pure speculation. By mixing up the company's storytelling with legitimate scientific research from respected scientists like Dan Bradley and Peter Donnelly, the company are no doubt hoping that some of that credibility rubs off on their own "findings". Unfortunately viewers who are not familiar with the scientific literature might not realise where the legitimate science ends and the storytelling begins.

Commercial interests
The minimum standard for scientific credibility is publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Unfortunately none of the "research" from the CymruDNAWales project has been published anywhere. It is in any case unlikely to get through the peer review process in a respected journal. In order to participate in the DNA Cymru "project" it is necessary to order an expensive DNA test from CymruDNAWales. Consequently the samples are likely to be very biased.

It was reported in the programme on Sunday that DNA Cymru had conducted tests on 1000 people. It seems highly likely that many of these people were encouraged to pay for a test after seeing the launch programme. I note too that the tests are still being surreptitiously promoted on the S4C website. Visitors are invited to click on a link to find out more about the CymruDNAWales "project" but the link provides no information about a scientific research project; instead it takes you to the Moffat Partnership's CymruDNAWales website where you can buy one of their ancestry tests.

We learnt from the programme that the principal scientist for the DNA Cymru series is Dr Jim Wilson. It just so happens that he is also the Chief Scientific Officer of CymruDNAWales and the other associated companies. He is a director of the Moffat Partnership and is a major shareholder with the company. His company, and in particular his business partner Alistair Moffat, have been heavily criticised for manipulating the press and misleading the public with their outrageous stories. At UCL we set up a whole website to counter these unscientific claims, an initiative which has been very well received by the academic community. One is therefore left wondering if the choice to partner with this company was made not as an independent editorial decision but as a result of the friendship of S4C's CEO Ian Jones with Alistair Moffat.

I should clarify that the Chromo 2 test sold by ScotlandsDNA is a perfectly valid test if you are interested in learning about your Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA markers. It is only the haplogroup reports provided by the company that have no scientific validity. There is nothing wrong with a TV company using the services of a commercial company. However, S4C, as a public service broadcaster, is bound by strict editorial guidelines to ensure that its impartiality and integrity are not compromised. It has a duty to provide accurate content which is not influenced by commercial interests.

Although the programme was better than the previous one, this is mainly because they incorporated highly respected scientists like Dan Bradley and Peter Donnelly. It is still a big disappointment to see a public service broadcaster being used to promote a commercial genetic ancestry company in the guise of a research project, and to see speculative stories mixed up in such a misleading way with serious science.

Further reading
For more information on the problems of making inferences about deep ancestry from Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA see the pamphlet Sense About Genetic Ancestry Testing from Sense About Science. This guide was written by my colleagues at UCL Professor Mark Thomas and Professor David Balding in collaboration with some of the big names in population genetics: Dr Turi King, Dr Lounès Chikhi, Dr Rosalind Harding, Professor Mark Jobling and Professor Guido Barbujani.

For further information on phylogeography and the problems with the interpretative approach see the ISOGG Wiki article on phylogeography.


Balloux F (2009). The worm in the fruit of the mitochondrial DNA tree. Heredity 104: 419-420.

Chikhi L (2010). Update to Chikhi et al.'s "Clinal Variation in the Nuclear DNA of Europeans” (1998): Genetic Data and Storytelling - From Archaeogenetics to Astrologenetics?" Human Biology 81(5/6): 639-643.

Goldstein DB, Chikhi L (2002). Human migrations and population structure: what we know and why it matters. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 3: 129-152.

Leslie S, Winney B, Hellenthal G et al (2015). The fine-scale genetic structure of the British population. Nature 519: 309–314.

Nielsen R, Beaumont MA (2009). Statistical inferences in phylogeography Molecular Ecology 18: 1034–1047.

Pickrell J, Reich D (2014). Towards a new history and geography of human genes informed by ancient DNA. Trends in Genetics 2014; 30 (9): 377-389 (subscription required). Available as a preprint from from BioRxiv.

© 2015 Debbie Kennett

Friday, 20 November 2015

FTDNA Group Administrators' Conference 2015 and the FTDNA winter sale

Family Tree DNA Group Administrators' Conference 2015
The Family Tree DNA group administrators' conference took place last weekend. Jennifer Zinck has written two very detailed summaries of the two-day event which include news of forthcoming developments at Family Tree DNA:

- 11th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy – Sunday

A very detailed report with lots of photos has also been provided by Roberta Estes:

The slides for most of the presentations are available on the Family Tree DNA Slideshare account:

Family Tree DNA Winter Sale
It was also announced at the close of the conference that the Family Tree DNA winter sale has now started. The sale will end at 11.59 pm Texas time on 31st December 2015. A list of the sale prices can be found below.

YDNAStandard PriceGroup PriceSale
Y12$59 not on sale
Y25$109 not on sale
Y37$169 $149 $139
Y67$268 $248 $228
Y111$359 $339 $309
YDNA UpgradesStandard PriceSale
Y12 - 37$119 $99 $79
Y12 - 67$209 $189 $151
Y12 - 111$359 $339 $271
Y25 - 37$69 $49 $39
Y25 - 67$168 $148 $118
Y25 - 111$269 $249 $199
Y37 - 67$119 $99 $79
Y37 - 111$240 $220 $176
Y67 - 111$149 $129 $103
Big YStandard PriceSale
Big Y$575 $525
Family FinderStandard PriceSale
FF$99 $89
mtDNAStandard PriceSale
mtDNA+$69 not on sale
mtDNA FullSeq$199 $169
mtDNA+ to FullSeq$159 $149
SNP PacksStandard PriceSale
SNP Packs$99, $119$10 off each pack

To convert the US dollar prices into your local currency you can use the XE Currency Converter.

FTDNA are also releasing special discount codes on a weekly basis every Monday to existing FTDNA customers. These codes can be shared with family and friends, and offer additional savings of up to $75.

Someone on the ISOGG DNA Newbie list has very kindly compiled a collaborative spreadsheet on GoogleDocs where people can post their spare discount codes so take advantage of these special offers to get the best available price. The spreadsheet is shared with permission and can be found here.

If you've not already take a DNA test or if you want to order a test for a friend or family member then now would be a very good time to do so!