A tool to trace family tree going back 500 years

A US-based company claims to have developed the most comprehensive and accurate tool to trace a person’s “family tree” by determining his ancestral origins going back 500 years and more.

The privately held personal genomics and biotechnology company, announced the availability of Ancestry Composition, a new feature that provides “state-of-the-art” geographic illustration of an individual’s ancestral origins.

Using 22 reference populations, the feature indicates what per cent of a person’s ancestry comes from various regions around the world, the company said.

The analysis includes DNA inherited from all ancestors on both sides of the family. The results reflect where an individual’s ancestors lived going back approximately 500 years.

Ancestry Composition offers detail for people with European ancestry, breaking it out into several regions with the ability to identify distinct ancestral origins, such as: British and Irish, Scandinavian, Italian and Ashkenazi Jewish, among others.

It also offers very accurate breakdowns for individuals of mixed ancestry, African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.

The company said with “Chromosome View”, people can see their personal ancestry reflected segment-by-segment on each of their 23 pairs of chromosomes.

“Their groundbreaking features are built with scientific rigour but provide an enjoyable and easy-to-understand way for anyone to explore their ancestry. This feature makes tracing one’s ancestral past through genetic makeup both fun and educational,” said Dr Henry Louis Gates Jr, director of Harvard’s WEB Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

The feature also enables people to see the specific ancestry inherited from each parent when at least one parent also uses the service.

“We’ve taken some recent developments in machine learning and applied those algorithms to genetics in a way that we believe sets new technical standards for the industry,” said Mike Macpherson, 23andMe principal product scientist.

“Ancestry Composition is truly innovative. It uses public-genetic databases for reference as well as the data set from 23andMe. As a result, the more people join 23andMe, the more powerful and more accurate Ancestry Composition will become,” he said.

The company recently presented the research that serves as the foundation for the Ancestry Composition feature at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting in San Francisco in November.

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