Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The DNA Detectives Series

I noticed Kelly Wheaton's post (Facebook ISOGG) about "The DNA Detectives" a New Zealand based, genetic genealogy themed, TV show. Great idea for a show! Hopefully it will inspire more people to test. I have a few New Zealand and Australian matches; mostly based on my Irish ancestry.
You can watch the show here (see bottom of page) or at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvFAyWoYpaY

The shows host is a little quirky. His animated gestures are funny, like pretending to blow a train whistle at one point, and making a train sound effect. The set in the studio is retro themed, and the host slams a button to display the DNA results. Two celebrity guests were featured, Jack Tame and Ray McVinnie, in this 44 minute show. After an initial ethnicity test reveal, in the studio, the guests travel around the world in search of DNA cousins.

South Asian segments
I enjoyed the show. I thought the first guest's, Jack Tame's, initial trip to New York was a let down, and I wasn't sure if the rest of the show would be similar (don't know why a painting couldn't be briefly unpacked and shown to him?). After the initial New York fail the rest of the show became increasingly interesting. I found the Elvis connection to the second guest, Ray McVinnie,  a little bit of a stretch. This guest was related to a family in Oklahoma, who in turn were 5th cousins to Elvis. Not a very close tie to Elvis. The fact the family was related to the judge who overturned the Rosa Parks ruling, ending segregation in the south, was more interesting to me. One of the women explaining the family history to McVinnie misspoke, saying he is related to the Federal Judge Frank Thomas, actually his name was Frank Johnson (it's easy to see how someone can misspeak leading to later confusion when seeking to find more info).

Kelly Wheaton's segments were interesting because they included more historical information, and actually showed the basis for one of the ethnicity percentages. Kelly had researched Tame's line. She found a surgeon, from Scotland, who immigrated to India in the 17th century. He married a native of India, which is where the 1.4% South Asian comes from. When Kelly showed him the large South Asian share from the 23andMe's ethnicity chromosome browser it really brought that fact home to him. He was blown away when he saw that. He had heard about some possible South Asian, but actually seeing the segment made it real. Kelly Wheaton is related to Tame, according to DNA test results, but she was not able to find the common ancestors. These distant cousins did share a resemblance as they noted.

The segment in Jamaica was very interesting also. This took McVinnie to Jamaica in search of the African ancestor who contributed the 2.2% African admixture. He met up with some distant cousins who showed him their family tree. Even though the guest wasn't aware of any connection with Jamaica he shared DNA and surnames in common, which established a definite relationship. The African ancestor was identified, and it sounds like he lived in the 18th century. He didn't expect his trace of Jewish ancestry to also stem from Jamaica, but it did. Portuguese Jews fled to Jamaica during the inquisition and other times of persecution.

The final segment featured someone only identified as James. This man designs software to help adoptees find relatives. He is an expert at hacking into computer systems. He doesn't hack illegally, he does it as a career to help companies find holes in their security. Great to have someone as skilled as he is helping adoptees!

Some educational information coming out of this show:
  1. Guest Tame's grandmother already knew some of the information which he discovered on his New York trip. This is something that always comes up on these kinds of shows. Relatives will later tell guests they already knew something. Many relatives never share stories unless asked.
  2. Small 1 and 2 percent DNA shares can go back to the 18th Century. The host said these small shares can go back 200 to 300 years, and are not ancient. Likely correct  The featured guests had small ethnicity segments of from 0.40% to 2.2% and these shares went back to the 18th Century.
  3. Guest two, McVinnie, would seem to have more Italian ethnicity than showed up in his ethnicity results. Southern European is not as well defined as Northern European when it come to these tests. Probably because most testers are of Northern European heritage.
  4. Always assume information passed down through generations could be wrong until you can find actual documentary evidence to support it. As a misspeak by one guest demonstrates.  
This is a fun show and I hope we see something like this in the US.


Marie Oakes said...

I was quirky, but enjoyable. I hope it inspires more folks to test also. Thanks for sharing.

Kalani said...

I can't wait to see the other episodes! They need to show more actual connections. The Indian revelation was awesome and I am glad they found the connection to Jamaica. The show really needs to concentrate on actual making connections when they visit these DNA matches. A lot of them just do not know how they connection.