Gencove DNA testing for genealogy – Review

Gencove is a new company to watch in the world of DNA testing. Like the Illumina-backed Helix, the company is offering a a platform for developers to build applications around the DNA samples that Gencove manages. Whilst Gencove will take DNA samples from other sources (think 23andMe and Ancestry) they are promoting their use of low-coverage Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). As their website states:

“Gencove has developed a new low-coverage Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) process to replace commonly used SNP Arrays. We sequence a random 10% to 20% of the genome in contrast to a SNP array, where about 0.02% of the genome is covered. Using a method called imputation, we can compare the sequenced bits to reference genomes and fill in many of the blanks.”

Currently they are offering the test for $59.99 and are shipping worldwide. Once your data has been sequenced it’s available to download as either a .vcf file with imputed genotype probabilities or file with SNP array data.

From the genetic genealogist’s viewpoint Gencove offers the now-familiar ethnicity testing. The test is fairly high level, covering 22 regions of the world. My results are shown below:

Gencove Ancestry Results

On top of this you get a map of the world showing the areas each region covers. As usual the boundaries are rather fluffy (as they should be).

These results are not too different from my results with other testing companies, however since my known ancestry is all British Isles the results are not earth-shattering.

On top of the ancestry app the initial offering four genomics apps. These cover “Open Science” so that you can “Contribute to research and citizen science”, a “Sleep App – Are you a morning or evening person”, an opportunity to “Discover your microbiome” i.e. the “Bacteria and viruses that live in your mouth” and the most interesting one “YouGenomics India” which want to “Help improve genomics for South Asia”. The later app is currently working with the South Asian diaspora in the United States to build a better quality biobank of South Asian people as well as using the data to provide more defined ethnicity estimates by breaking the South Asian ethnicity into ““Central Indian subcontinent”, “Southern Indian subcontinent”, and “Bengal”.

As ever, for any DNA testing company it’s worth reading their Privacy Policy available at https://app.gencove.com/privacy. If you are interested in the work of this company you can follow updates and announcements via the Gencove blog.

Out of curiosity I’m planning to order their Whole Genome Sequencing. If I find anything interesting from the data, I’ll update this blog.

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My X-chromosome Inheritance – the hunt for Mr.X

One of my favourite family board games is “Scotland Yard, the Hunt for Mr. X“. In this game you have 24 turns for a team of players to find the Spy (Mr.X) as he moves around the streets of London. I mention this because not only is this a great game, it’s also a rather clumsy, but accurate, way to introduce this blog topic, the X-chromosome.

I’ve been inspired to do this by gedmatch, the vendor-neutral website for comparing your DNA. Normally I’m not a big user of gedmatch, however I was surprised when I checked my X-DNA matches and saw that my top match was an unknown relative with a whopping 47.7cM matching segment on the X chromosome. To put this in context, the whole of the X chromosome is only 195.93 cM long AND my largest autosomal DNA match is only 42.4 cM over the other 22 chromosomes. This match was clearly worth investigating.

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Recovering files from your SD Card using Recuva – A Quick Tutorial

A few days ago our daughter came downstairs and asked where all the pictures on her mobile phone had gone, and if this was anything to do with the fact she’d just “formatted” her SD card. Silently I screamed to myself and tried to not look like a desperate father. Now although I know that a “quick format” normally doesn’t destroy the files on an SD card (it just rips out the index of files) I must admit I’ve never had to recover a file from a formatted disk before. Google wasn’t much help, as many of the top links were all trying to sell me a data-recovery service. It would have been worth it – the most recent photos our daughter took are from a recent try to New York. These were all, naturally, not back up to a PC or the cloud, or anywhere. In the end I found the very-Yorkshire sounding “Recuva” software from piriform (As we say in Yorkshire “Ay Lad, Do you wanna Recuva yer files ?”). Cutting a long story short I managed to rescue the files, but before I return the SD card to our daughter I though it was worth doing a short tutorial on the Recuva software, so that if you are in the same situation you may be able to avoid a family crisis.

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Ethnicity Estimates and Britishness – 2017 Edition

Lets face it, “Ethnicity Estimates”, i.e. analysing your DNA to break down your ancestry into different regional world populations, are fun. In certain circumstances it can be useful for a genealogist, for example researching an unknown recent ancestor. At a more general level it can be useful for a person to connect to the place of origin, both at an individual level (hey, I’m a bit Scottish!) and collectively with their ancestors (Hey, I’m related to people all over the world!) It is also a major selling point for the firms selling DNA testing to the public. The richest and most mature genealogical community in the world is based in North America, where most people are a colourful blend of immigrants from many different countries and cultures. As such it makes it worthwhile to provide a form of instant gratification for DNA testers in this market.

The down side of the ethnicity estimates is that it’s, at the moment, an imprecise science. This problem is compounded when people take their ethnicity estimates too literally.

If only DNA was like bunting, it would be so much easier to identify ethnicity !

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Harahorn Norwegian Small Batch Gin – something, something, Viking, something, something

Harahorn Gin complete with the fabled Harahorn

I must admit I wasn’t planning to do another gin review so soon after the last one, however last weekend was World Gin Day and needed to be celebrated as such. The gin I picked out was one I bought on a recent family trip to Oslo, or more specifically bought with my last few kroner at Oslo airport as I left. The gin I picked up was the Harahorn Norwegian Small Batch Gin produced by Det Norske Brenneri (the Norwegian Distillery). This distillery claims to be “the first private distillery in Norway after more than 80 years of state monopoly – the Norwegian State had a monopoly on alcohol production until 2005 and still has on the sale of alcohol. Before we go into the gin, a little word on the Harahorn. The gin is “named after a mountain in Hemsedal, and inspired by a fabled horned hare never yet seen by human eyes, a bit like a more scary version of the American Jackalope. Enough of the scary animals, let’s talk about the gin.

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Masons Yorkshire Gin Review – not The One Gin To Rule Them All

I have come, but I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed

Mason Yorkshire Gin Minis

So spoke Frodo Baggins as he stood at the Crack of Doom contemplating casting the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. I know how he feels. For the last year I’ve been planning to write about Mason’s Yorkshire Gin and now as I’m sitting in front of my computer I share Frodo’s reluctance, although I suspect I sound more like Alan Partridge than JRR Tolkien. My problem: theoretically Masons Gin has got everything going for it – it’s Yorkshire, it’s craft gin, the people behind it are gin enthusiasts, it seems popular; but I’m just not into it. So lets start with the background details.

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The Chapmans: Hawnby, Nova Scotia and Methodism

Many genealogists search for a “Gateway Ancestor”. This is an ancestor who has a well- known and documented link to other ancestors further back in time. This link is normally back to a royal line, a famous person or, for example, an ancestor who sailed on the “Mayflower“. I’m looking for something different, a sort-of “Reverse-Gateway Ancestor”; that is someone who is a gateway to the many hundreds of unexplained DNA relatives I have living in North America. Recently I found one. In this case someone with both a multitude of descendants and an interesting story. Let me try and walk you through the details.

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