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Julie has an interest in genealogy. She maintains a public family tree on, and both of her parents have done DNA tests through AncestryDNA to help research their family history. Because of her interest in genealogy, Julie was really excited to see a first-year seminar available that provided an opportunity to submit a sample for DNA testing by 23andMe. Julie was familiar with 23andMe but she had no experience with the service, and she thought that submitting her DNA sample to the 23andMe database may reveal relationships that could be helpful in genealogical research. Julie didn’t think much about spitting into the tube and sending off for a DNA test. After a month when Julie’s test results were available on the 23andMe website, she was intrigued by the results. Most of her matches were anonymous and only identified as ‘Male’ or ‘Female’ with no genealogical information. A few days after Julie’s results were available, she received a message through 23andMe from a match listed as a 2nd to 3rd cousin with 1.9% shared SNPs in 6 segments. The match had been adopted and was searching for biological relatives to help reconstruct her family tree. The match had some information on her birth mother but nothing on her biological father. Julie searched through her genealogical records and could not find any connection with the information provided about woman’s birth mother. Over the next several days Julie received additional messages from adoptees that appeared in her DNA Relatives list, but each of these were even more distantly related and in each case given the information provided by the match Julie was unable to make a connection with her own genealogy. Julie was clearly getting frustrated taking time away from her studies and not being able to identify connections with her DNA matches.


Julie has a well-researched family tree, what are possible reasons she is facing difficulty connecting with adoptees that appear as DNA relatives?

Should Julie feel bad about not being able to invest more time trying to help adoptees identify connecting biological relatives?

How much information should Julie share about her known relatives?


Finally during the fall break Julie had time to thoroughly evaluate her DNA Relatives list on 23andMe. A anonymous close match listed as a 2nd cousin also shares the same maternal haplogroup as Julie, so she sends a message with details on her mother, her grandmother, and her great grandmother to see if she can identify the relatives that they are connected through. Julie doesn’t get a response. Julie sends additional messages to other matches and none of them respond either. When class resumes after the break Julie expresses her dislike of the 23andMe DNA service and frustration with other participants’ lack of responsiveness.

Should Julie expect that others users of the 23andMe service share her interest in genealogy?

What are reasons other than genealogy that a person may submit a sample for DNA testing?

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