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DebbieK
11-07-2018, 08:57 PM
We were asked to write an article about the BritainsDNA saga and the resulting article has now been published in the peer-reviewed journal Genealogy.

The rise and fall of BritainsDNA: a tale of misleading claims, media manipulation and threats to academic freedom

By Debbie Kennett, Adrian Timpson, David Balding and Mark Thomas.


Abstract Direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry testing is a new and growing industry that has gained widespread media coverage and public interest. Its scientific base is in the fields of population and evolutionary genetics and it has benefitted considerably from recent advances in rapid and cost-effective DNA typing technologies. There is a considerable body of scientific literature on the use of genetic data to make inferences about human population history, although publications on inferring the ancestry of specific individuals are rarer. Population geneticists have questioned the scientific validity of some population history inference approaches, particularly those of a more interpretative nature. These controversies have spilled over into commercial genetic ancestry testing, with some companies making sensational claims about their products. One such company—BritainsDNA—made a number of dubious claims both directly to its customers and in the media. Here we outline our scientific concerns, document the exchanges between us, BritainsDNA and the BBC, and discuss the issues raised about media promotion of commercial enterprises, academic freedom of expression, science and pseudoscience and the genetic ancestry testing industry. We provide a detailed account of this case as a resource for historians and sociologists of science, and to shape public understanding, media reporting and scientific scrutiny of the commercial use of population and evolutionary genetics.

The paper is open access and can be found here:

https://www.mdpi.com/2313-5778/2/4/47

Judith
12-07-2018, 10:08 AM
Debbie, that paper is a very welcome summary of the issues and problems of the topic with the company.
Thank you again for both writing it and posting about it.
I am relieved to read that the provost of UCL had principles, despite the legal advice, for you authors taking risks to discuss the misuse of power and position (by Moffat for commercial advantage) is laudable

DebbieK
12-07-2018, 01:52 PM
Thank you Judith. I just hope that other companies will learn from our experience. The big companies do now seem to be much more responsible in their marketing, though I still have concerns about the way "ethnicity" is marketed.

razyn
12-07-2018, 03:14 PM
I share the general dissatisfaction with many outlandish claims that were born or nourished in the marketing strategies of this company. On the other hand, several of us found important, previously unnamed branches of our YDNA haplotrees in data released by Dr. Jim Wilson in about Feb. 2014. One file was called "Chromo2 2000" (anonymized results from about two thousand of their male customers, tested with that proprietary chip); and another identified the position and mutation of known SNPs for which the Chromo2 chip was, or wasn't, looking.

I was running the only public haplogroup project for R1b-DF27 at that time (for FTDNA); and Wilson's data enabled me to order tests (Sanger sequencing) for a half dozen SNPs for which nobody but BritainsDNA had been testing. [The Wilson lab's name for DF27 was S250, and their terminology has been used in many papers, especially those produced in Europe.] Of course the SNP discovery process was beginning in that same period to accelerate very quickly, with NextGen sequencing results becoming available especially from BigY and FGC testing. But when one is building a new tree from the trunk up, one needs all available help; and it should be acknowledged that some very useful, basic structure of the DF27 tree was identified from BritainsDNA data, before it had been detected or named by other labs. I don't know how widely their data were used in building or refining other parts of the Y tree.

In case someone else has shared my curiosity about the former BritainsDNA lab director's later career, here is a place to look: https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/jim-wilson(653f83c2-60ca-4d34-a1b3-b7ba1f7ef86c).html

DebbieK
12-07-2018, 10:28 PM
We do acknowledge in the paper that the Chromo2 was useful for genealogists. However, I had to deal with a lot of the people who'd taken the previous test offered by BritainsDNA which covered around 200 Y-DNA SNPs and 200 mtDNA SNPs at an inflated price. The company even messed up the mtDNA haplogroups and assigned people to the wrong haplogroups. These tests were really expensive (about £200) and sadly some of the people who took that test became very disillusioned with the whole process. The first BritainsDNA test was the one that was being marketed when the company were making their most outlandish claims.

MacUalraig
12-08-2018, 05:07 PM
Chromo2 was a revelation to us in M222 showing a fully developed sub-tree of SNPs for the first time. By chance the first results coincided with the first M222 Y Elite results (including my own) and created a golden period for the group after years stumbling around in the STR darkness. We hoped for a Chromo3 but it was never really on the cards and from 2014 onwards you really needed the flexibility of the YSEQ panels which are much more nimble in terms of updates. I got a lot of contacts on my website from people who had entered genetic genealogy via Chromo2 simply by concentating on positives and ignoring all the 'noises off', 99% of which came from the firm's critics rather than the firm itself.

DebbieK
12-08-2018, 05:37 PM
Chromo2 was better for some subclades than others so most people who took that test wouldn't have wasted their money, unlike the previous test. I feel really sorry for the people who paid £170 just to get an mtDNA haplogroup assignment and who couldn't do anything with the results. The company is hardly like to criticise itself. The criticisms related to the marketing and the ridiculous statements made by the company's Managing Director. No one was criticising the Chromo2 test. When it first came out it was the best SNP test on the market but it got overtaken with the development of the next generation sequencing tests.

JerryS.
08-29-2020, 02:19 AM
Great Britain has the best records in the world! It should be easy to find birth records of relatives.

how would an American with only a name, age, and date of arrival of a person coming to the state in the colonial era go about tracking this down?

Saetro
10-01-2020, 08:29 PM
how would an American with only a name, age, and date of arrival of a person coming to the state in the colonial era go about tracking this down?

90% - get lucky
But you have to do some research first.
Roberta Estes' blog had a post some years ago about how she tracked one of her people back across the other side.

As I recall, she looked at where her people first settled and who settled with them.
There can be land grants with information that can be useful, but apart from her, almost nobody bothers with them.
Anyway, one way and another, she worked out that the people likely came on the same ship.
There can often be a top person arranging things with the local Colonial authorities, so there can be correspondence that gives precious details.
And top people leave more records - on both sides of the Atlantic.
And at that time it was also likely that people came in large groups from a small number of regions, so if you can find the origins of a few, you can sometimes find most.
A few may even have left some records about where they came from, and there might be one or more family histories (often written 100-150 years ago) that tell you where in England they came from.

And if amongst that shipload, there were a few rare surnames, you should be able to track where they came from using one of the surname tools or databases around for England or Scotland.
And it's not just the Mayflower: lots of other ships have left traces of where their people came from.

It's definitely not on a plate for anybody.
And I think many people find it easier just to give up without trying.
My people who came to my country early came at a time when many records survived and they can be worked on from both sides fairly well.
Exactly when they came and on what ship is usually the last part of the puzzle, but that's because there were lots of ships then.
For the few who came quite early - analagous to the period you mention - the processes above work here too. And it takes effort.

I have bucketloads of DNA cousins in USA whose trees say that ALL of their lines arrived there in that early era.
Many have even tracked them back to parts of Virginia involved with very early settlement.
But they have not made the extra effort on those land records.
I very much wish they would.
I can't do much on their surnames: they are common right across England and often Scotland and Ireland as well.

JerryS.
10-01-2020, 09:05 PM
90% - get lucky
But you have to do some research first.
Roberta Estes' blog had a post some years ago about how she tracked one of her people back across the other side.

As I recall, she looked at where her people first settled and who settled with them.
There can be land grants with information that can be useful, but apart from her, almost nobody bothers with them.
Anyway, one way and another, she worked out that the people likely came on the same ship.
There can often be a top person arranging things with the local Colonial authorities, so there can be correspondence that gives precious details.
And top people leave more records - on both sides of the Atlantic.
And at that time it was also likely that people came in large groups from a small number of regions, so if you can find the origins of a few, you can sometimes find most.
A few may even have left some records about where they came from, and there might be one or more family histories (often written 100-150 years ago) that tell you where in England they came from.

And if amongst that shipload, there were a few rare surnames, you should be able to track where they came from using one of the surname tools or databases around for England or Scotland.
And it's not just the Mayflower: lots of other ships have left traces of where their people came from.

It's definitely not on a plate for anybody.
And I think many people find it easier just to give up without trying.
My people who came to my country early came at a time when many records survived and they can be worked on from both sides fairly well.
Exactly when they came and on what ship is usually the last part of the puzzle, but that's because there were lots of ships then.
For the few who came quite early - analagous to the period you mention - the processes above work here too. And it takes effort.

I have bucketloads of DNA cousins in USA whose trees say that ALL of their lines arrived there in that early era.
Many have even tracked them back to parts of Virginia involved with very early settlement.
But they have not made the extra effort on those land records.
I very much wish they would.
I can't do much on their surnames: they are common right across England and often Scotland and Ireland as well.

the missing part of all that is it is expensive, which is why many give up. I got to 1757 colonial Virginia with relatively little cost. everything before than required more money and a lot of time because of overseas research needed. it just isn't that important to me at this point; there is a reason why they came to America....

Saetro
09-13-2021, 09:37 PM
the missing part of all that is it is expensive, which is why many give up. I got to 1757 colonial Virginia with relatively little cost. everything before than required more money and a lot of time because of overseas research needed. it just isn't that important to me at this point; there is a reason why they came to America....

Family history should provide what you want from it.
There is nothing saying you have to do this or that.
(One match had a tree back to the Angevin kings so they should be ancestors of mine too. On a whim I looked them up and was thoroughly disgusted with some of their behavior. And there are a lot of their contemporaries who are ancestors too. So I could spend time on them. But after that taster, I prefer to research more recent times instead.)

Australia is a more recent colony than USA, so when I was tiny there were still people I knew who were some of the first or second generation born here.
Consequently one of my passions is how they left, from whence and why.
And I have been able to establish the first two for all sixteen emigrant lines.

Some left on a boat with others of the same surname somehow. (Sometimes it was the wives who were sisters.)
At other times they left as one nuclear family perhaps with one aged parent. Sometimes just singly.
In the new land there were often others with the same surname.
Some came from the same or adjacent villages and had ages close enough to be siblings.
Others came from further away, but bought land together, went to each other's baptisms and weddings and put in joint applications for funds to build local bits of roads.
They even sometimes had cattle brands that were similar.
So maybe they were family.
Others came from small towns where there were probably three or four unrelated families with that name.
And so it goes.

All this from a question to my father about how his grandfather had moved from somewhere else in the new land and selected the farm he grew up on.
He told me," There were four brothers.."

So where people came from and how they worked together became a passion. And I have just been working it back.
But the answers to those questions disappear before about 1750, so that becomes a bit of a horizon for me. If I can even get back that far.
Some of my Scots are a mystery.
The little I do know comes mainly from Americans who have worked their Scots and Scots/Irish back to either side of the Northern Channel that divides Scotland from Ireland.
The Common Ancestors remain undiscovered, but are almost certainly before 1600.
But I would not have got that far without some very determined people from USA who did cross the Atlantic with their research, and I am grateful.

And this has cost me very little in money.
Membership of a local family history society provides heaps.
An occasional visit to a library or archive at home or when I am travelling anyway provides most of the rest.
And some wonderful assistance from other researchers over the years.
For convenience I have chosen to buy three or four books, but that really was not necessary.
Laying them out on a table with other scraps of research just helps me think.