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Saturday, September 7, 2019

MyHeritage LIVE Conference: The Impact of DNA Testing on Genealogical Research

DNA testing has become established as an integral part of the world-wide genealogical community and is making major technological advances extending DNA testing from its current position as a genealogical research tool by expanding their DNA Health program.
The expansion of the Health DNA testing program was one of the highlights of the opening presentation by Gilad Japhet, CEO and Founder, at the MyHeritage LIVE Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on September 7, 2019. In an earlier post entitled, MyHeritage LIVE: The Future is Bright, I wrote about the announcement of MyHeritage's acquisition of SNPedia and Promethease, adding a vital link in MyHeritage's advancement in this rapidly expanding and innovative addition to the health wellness industry. But Gilad Jephet's comments went well beyond the subject of the acquisition. 

Going back in time, DNA testing has become a standard in criminal investigations. Early on, when DNA testing was still an innovation, a substantial number of existing criminal convictions were overturned and are still being overturned by subsequent DNA analysis of the evidence. DNA testing, with the proper procedural prerequisites, is regularly used in criminal prosecutions. Presently, genealogical DNA testing is going through a phase where many DNA tests are motivated by casual interest or curiosity. But as technology advances, even the popular ethnicity estimates will become more accurate and used for more serious research. 

During his presentation, Gilad Japhet expanded on the future of MyHeritage DNA Ethnicity Estimates by outlining the efforts being made by MyHeritage to dramatically increase the accuracy of the estimates by focusing on a more comprehensive and detailed representative basis for the DNA comparisons. He outlined an expanded European comparison base that would include specific ethnic groups down to the local county or district level. 

His comments also included an analysis of the important part that MyHeritage DNA Health testing could play in improving the detections of several types of genetic-based illness and conditions. DNA Health along with Genealogy and genealogical DNA testing make a well-rounded and complementary system. Genetic diseases are, by their nature, inherited and there has always been a component of genealogy interested in ancestral diseases and infirmities.

With the steady increase in online genealogical source records, the recent increase in interest in DNA testing has opened new avenues to resolve multiple previously very difficult to resolve genealogical challenges. The most obvious of these is the identification of near relatives by those who were adopted or otherwise never knew their parents. But as the results from DNA tests become more detailed and genealogically accurate, those who use these new tools will find useful avenues that will assist genealogical research in ways we cannot presently imagine.

Unfortunately, many people who take a DNA test do not follow up with the information provided and begin a family tree. With a family tree, a DNA test moves beyond curiosity and begins to be of use in finding and connecting with relatives and learning about their ancestral heritage.

I can only guess at what the future might bring, but I do know that MyHeritage will be at the forefront of any technological developments. 

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