Category: DNA

Jack the Ripper mystery solved? Don’t trust what you read on the internet.

Jack the Ripper mystery solved?

Jack the Ripper mystery solved? Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Jack the Ripper mystery solved? Not quite. It’s so true that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, even from me.

Recently, I wrote a post about the DNA analysis of a scarf purported to have belonged to Catherine Eddowes, one of the victims of Jack the Ripper, and which was supposedly present at the murder scene.

According to the earlier news story, the DNA proved to be a match to Jack the Ripper suspect, Polish Jewish immigrant Aaron Kosminski.

I can still hear the words of my husband, Mark, resounding in my head, “Careful, you can’t believe everything you see or read on the internet!”

Oh, how easily I brushed him off and continued on blithely writing and publishing the offending post.

They were fortuitous words, however, as I just read a news article on the Start-Up Israel site in which they present evidence that there were rather basic, but devastating mistakes made in the evaluation of the provenance of the scarf, the type of DNA analysis used, and the actual conclusions drawn from the DNA analysis.

Oh, how I hate to admit that I was snowed, but this wasn’t just a slight sprinkling, it was a full-blown blizzard and unfortunately, I succumbed.

Note to self: Listen to Mark more. Sometimes he does know best.

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23andMe DNA kits offer genetic and health testing in Canada.

23andMe, a genetic testing company that provides genealogy and health data via the 23andMe DNA kits, has announced it is expanding to offer genetic and health testing in Canada.
23andMe DNA kits health reports are available in Canada

23andMe DNA kits are now offered in Canada.

Although I have toyed with the idea of getting a DNA test, I haven’t done so up to now. The announcement of 23andMe’s expansion into Canada may be just what I needed to prompt me into action. I will definitely be looking into this further. I’m hoping obtaining the genetic and health reports will answer some longstanding questions, solve mysteries and break down some brick walls in my family’s genealogy research.

In November, 2013, 23andMe was admonished by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and forced to stop promoting health-related reports in its DNA home-testing kits.

The FDA published a warning letter online advising that the tests had not been proven safe or effective for providing health information and therefore could not be offered. The FDA’s concern was that inaccurate results could lead to customers to seek needless, ineffective or even harmful medical treatment.

23andMe has stated in their recent announcement of its Canadian expansion that the results of the DNA testing kit will include 108 health reports that will outline information about existing genetic risk factors and health conditions. These reports, although not cleared by the FDA, can only be purchased by Canadians in Canada.

Americans will still be able to purchase the 23andMe DNA kits for genetic testing and profiles only as the company continues to comply with the FDA ruling.

UPDATE (October 1, 2014): I decided to go ahead and order but was rather dismayed to find that this company does not accept Paypal. My husband and I do not have credit cards as we wish to be debt free when he retires from his work in a few years. Therefore, we pay for everything using either our VISA debit card or Paypal account. In my mind, 23andMe is shooting themselves in the foot by not offering these as payment options – especially as a large portion of their customers are those approaching their senior years and are in the same position we are.

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DNA, archaeology, anthropology and genealogy open eyes to the past.

It seems that every time I turn on my computer to view the internet, I find new articles and posts about discoveries made in DNA, archaeology, genealogy and even science, that shed new light on our search into the origins of our own family and heritage, and the origins of our ethnic groups.

Today I stumbled upon the article “Discovered 2.3 k-yr-old human skeleton throws light on our ancestry,” on the ANINews website.archaeology, genealogy and science teach about our past and history.

According to this article, “DNA from the complete 1.5 metre tall skeleton is one of the ‘earliest diverged,’ oldest in genetic terms, found to-date in a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago.”

The DNA evidence pointed to this man being from a branch that is the most closely related to ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ and now presumed to be extinct.

Reading about these new discoveries points out something very intriguing to me. In the past, the discoveries were made based on exploration, experimentation, and finding something new, affecting and changing the future.

Today, the discoveries one hears of most are those delving into the past, using all disciplines of social studies including genealogy, anthropology and archaeology; and the sciences including DNA and chemical analysis.

Today’s most most well known and talked about discoveries are looking to the past and where we came from; individually, as a family, and as part of a broader ethnic group.

This suits me fine as this is my area of interest and fascination. I can’t help but feel excitement with each new discovery in my own genealogy, as well as reading and hearing about the discoveries made with a much broader, more global impact.

It all matters and sheds light on who we are and where we came from.

The benefits of storing your DNA for future use.

Assisting with legal issues, future comparison for accuracy, investigation of family histories, and verification of paternity and maternity are only a few of the benefits of storing your DNA for future use.
storing your DNA for future use.

The benefits of storing your DNA for future use.

As of June 2013, it has been legal for law enforcement officers to obtain DNA samples from people who have been arrested but not convicted of a serious crime. The purpose of this collection process is to enable the police to easily scan DNA evidence that has been collected from other crime scenes with the intention of helping them solve more cases. Although this was a controversial Supreme Court decision, it has also opened the door for individuals to consider protecting their rights by storing their own DNA samples. After all, evidence is not always as tamper-proof as it should be, and it could be extremely beneficial to have a professionally collected and stored sample for comparison’s sake.

What are the perks of storing DNA samples?

There are many reasons that an individual could decide to store their DNA. For example, it can provide an easily testable record of their family line for future genealogy enthusiasts, and it can also speed up the process of determining paternity. From a legal standpoint, being able to conclusively verify whether or not someone is the parent of a child can be imperative in certain cases. It is also important to consider the implications of DNA on criminal cases. The Justice Project has helped people become exonerated years after a conviction by comparing DNA samples, and now everyone has the opportunity to make sure that a reliable sample of their DNA will be available if they find themselves accused of a crime they did not commit.

How will stored DNA impact a legal case?

It is necessary for a DNA sample to be properly processed and stored in order for it to provide reliable results during a legal case. Any tampering or improper storage of DNA could cause the results to be skewed. Additionally, it is important to note that prosecutors do not always use DNA as evidence. In these cases, having properly stored DNA could very easily help lead to an acquittal, especially if any DNA that was found on the scene does not match the samples that are provided by the accused. Even if someone does get convicted, their stored sample could end up getting them exonerated in the future if new DNA evidence is found.

What happens if the DNA samples do not match?

If a prosecutor claims that an individual’s DNA links them to a crime but their sample does not match the one that the accused has in storage, it will typically become necessary for law enforcement officers to obtain a second sample. Going through this process can help erase any doubts about improper storage and processing, and it can make the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense for everyone to protect themselves by storing a sample of their DNA with a professional collection company.

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DNA solves mystery of the identity of Jack the Ripper.

It is gratifying that in today’s day and age, science and technology are such that DNA solves mysteries and breaks down walls in more than just genealogy. It holds the promise of possibly identifying the culprits in unsolved crimes throughout history – as long as DNA can be found on artifacts left on the scene. In this case, DNA solves the mystery of the true identity of Jack the Ripper.
DNA solves the mystery of the identity of Jack the Ripper.

DNA solves the mystery of the identity of Jack the Ripper.

In a previous post, “Be prepared for the skeletons in the closet you find,” I discussed the discoveries I have made in our genealogies and those of others I’ve done. Although some were fascinating and positive, others were decidedly negative and I had to be careful how I relayed the information to the recipient of the research.

An example of the positive side of discoveries made and mysteries solved through DNA is the discovery of the burial site of Richard III. I can just imagine how the distant ancestor they approached for testing must have felt. I’d have been glad to be able to know for sure whether or not I was his ancestor.

Then there’s the recent announcement of the analysis of DNA found on a shawl left at the scene of the murder of Catherine Eddowes. DNA has proved that Jack the Ripper was a long held suspect, Aaron Kosminski, a recent Polish immigrant and hair stylist.

I can just imagine how the distant ancestor of his sister felt when she was approached to be tested and have it confirmed that her distant uncle was indeed Jack the Ripper.

The DNA results identifying Jack the Ripper are supported by the fact that the Ripper’s last victim, Frances Coles, was attacked just prior to Kosminski being placed in Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, where he remained until his death at 53 in 1919.

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Are free genealogy databases a thing of the past?

In almost twenty years of genealogy research, I have found a considerable amount of the sources, data and images on free genealogy databases online. They still exist in large numbers and can be very valuable.
find free genealogy databases

Finding free genealogy databases.

The tough part in some cases is finding them, as most sites created by amateur genealogists and website owners are not optimized for the internet and therefore may not rank well in Google searches.

Be sure to sift through as many links as you can. If the site entered from a Google search result links to other sites, then by all means check them out. It’s important to bookmark any sites you find valuable as it’s very likely that days, weeks, months or even years down the road, you may never be able to find it again.

One tool I find very helpful for finding free genealogy databases is the Google Genealogy Search Tool at the Ancestor Search website. Scroll to the very bottom for the search tool, just one of many on the page. This tool incorporates most of all the search types above it. Just proceed to the next search results once you’ve waded through a set. This is very quick, easy and fruitful.

It is also important to search by other means than just names, such as location, topical sites (i.e. military service, war records, births, deaths, etc.) and dedicated surname websites.

When you begin to study genealogy, the resources that you have are few and far between. Most of us don’t go out and purchase expensive books or buy memberships in larger sites to get the information that we want. We tend to rely more on our own experiences and family members, but the truth is that those resources, while good, won’t carry you back through too many generations before you need some additional help.

Frustration can be an integral part of genealogy research. When it gets to the point where I’m very frustrated and feeling blocked, I create a ‘to do’ note on the person’s record in my genealogy software and turn to a different item. I find when I return later, either with a fresh, clear mind, or having given the database time to make updates, I will find something useful.

While you’re working online on your family tree, the free genealogy database will very often be a life saver. Those of us who don’t, or can’t buy the online access to the many paid databases, use the free ones religiously to find our way through family members. While you may not find all of the things that you want to know, you will find a great deal of information that will point you in another direction you weren’t even aware that you had to explore.

Even paid genealogy sites offer some specific databases for free access. These sites include Ancestry.com, and Fold3.com, amongst others. To search for free records on any given paid genealogy site, find the search link, go to advanced search, and enter the keyword ‘free.’ Most sites will produce a list of all free databases on the site. Also, try a general ‘free database’ keyword search on Google. Be prepared for thousands of search results, but at least it’s a place to start.

It is also important to subscribe to the blogs or newsletters to learn of any time limited free database promotions that may be coming up.

For all of you who thought the free genealogy search was a thing of the past, and that nothing worth having was free any more, take heart. There are literally thousands of free genealogy database sites out there that are waiting for you to come and pick through them and get what you can for your own genealogy.

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