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Genome Hacker Uncovers 13-Million-Member Family Tree

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the turns-out-several-million-people-married-their-cousins dept.

Technology 61

ananyo writes "Using data pulled from online genealogy sites, a renowned 'genome hacker' has constructed what is likely the biggest family tree ever assembled. The researcher and his team now plan to use the data — including a single uber-pedigree comprising 13 million individuals, which stretches back to the 15th century — to analyze the inheritance of complex genetic traits, such as longevity and facial features. In addition to providing the invitation list to what would be the world's largest family reunion, the work presented by computational biologist Yaniv Erlich at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting in Boston could provide a new tool for understanding the extent to which genes contribute to certain traits. The pedigrees have been made available to other researchers, but Erlich and his team at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have stripped the names from the data to protect privacy."

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Sir Goatse's Family Tree (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45274881)

May be found here [goatse.cx] at a site that has been down for many years. SUCK IT, SLASHDONG. You inbred pencilneck Jay Carney type!

Re:Sir Goatse's Family Tree (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45274919)

Interesting, but does it run Linux?

everyone's a hacker (4, Insightful)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#45275257)

Wow, now everybody's a hacker these days. It started to go downhill with the whole "lifehacker" meme. perhaps I should be called "garbage hacker" instead of the prior preferred term, "sanitation engineer"

Re:everyone's a hacker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275335)

I've always preferred the term "dumpster diver."

Re:everyone's a hacker (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#45276467)

I've always preferred the term "dumpster diver."

for me a more accurate term would be dumpster driver.

Re:everyone's a hacker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45276903)

M$ fanboi, you must be new here. That's called dumpster kernel modules around here.

Re:everyone's a hacker (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#45277003)

A job that truly goes nowhere.

oblig (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | about a year ago | (#45276965)

"It started to go downhill with the whole "lifehacker" meme."

You must be new here?

Actually, yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45278505)

Since when is "hacker" some sort of elite geek thing? Hacking is not about technology, it is an attitude. Applying the term to "everybody" is much older than you think. The earliest reference I have for it is from the primordial hacker himself [stallman.org] , Richard Stallman, about 12 years ago. I am sure that there are much older references out there.

Re:everyone's a hacker (1)

ausekilis (1513635) | about a year ago | (#45279777)

I think "garbage hacker" would be appropriate if, instead of taking it to the dump, you did something interesting with it... Like a large-scale model of Ballmer, for some zozobra-like action. You know, to commemorate his years of (dis)service to Microsoft.

Re:Sir Goatse's Family Tree (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45274953)

Weak. I would have seriously signed up for it had goatse.jpeg actually been displayed on that page, or even briefly in that video. A shameful sullying of the goatse name, especially goatse.cx.

Shame, shame, shame.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Sir Goatse's Family Tree (1)

_merlin (160982) | about a year ago | (#45275067)

It's called hello.jpg, not goatse.jpeg - looks like you're sullying the goatse name yourself.

Re:Sir Goatse's Family Tree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275099)

Insert your head into your rectum and try to scream.

-- TrisexualPuppy

Re:Sir Goatse's Family Tree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45284117)

Well played, sir. Well played.

MUST SEE (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45274887)

Hillary clinton is a shapeshifting reptilian alien [youtube.com] sent to deceive us all!

Did anyone else read Gnome Hacker? (4, Funny)

javilon (99157) | about a year ago | (#45274923)

I did.

Oblig (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year ago | (#45275059)

Sorry Mr. Elrich. Even with your proof of the family tree, you still can't marry your sister.

Re:Did anyone else read Gnome Hacker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275069)

Me too (not joking, seriously!)

Re:Did anyone else read Gnome Hacker? (4, Informative)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#45276125)

Outside of the obviously slanderous term this is not "Science". The guy pulled data which people input on genealogy sites. There is lots of biases here, because everyone wants to be related to someone famous and/or of historical significance. I can't tell you how many of the people on these sites claim to be related to famous people like King Henry or Napolean (I have met many). Funny that so few claim to be related to Ben Franklin who fathered 10 times the amount of children they had.

Lisa Cannon-Albright, a geneticist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, urges caution when using self-reported genealogical data. She has worked extensively with a large Utah genealogy database that is linked to some medical information. “Everyone wants to trace their family back to royalty,” she says. “For these giant pedigrees, we just don’t believe them beyond a certain date.” Cannon-Albright says that she cuts off her data at the year 1500.

It's also kind of pointless because as TFA points out, even if you assume the unlikely chance that the data is accurate what the hell good does it do?

For now, it is unclear how the huge pedigrees generated by Erlich and his team will be useful. Some scientists at the meeting expressed enthusiasm for the project, but were hard-pressed to come up with a specific experiment using the data.

But no matter what, this guy is now a "Hacker"....

Re:Did anyone else read Gnome Hacker? (2)

joelleo (900926) | about a year ago | (#45276801)

HAH I actually AM related to Ben Franklin =) Great*4 uncle on my mom's side, to hear her tell the tale.

Re:Did anyone else read Gnome Hacker? (2)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about a year ago | (#45278411)

HAH I actually AM related to Ben Franklin =) Great*4 uncle on my mom's side, to hear her tell the tale.

I am sorry, but it still proves nothing but rather a hear say. Until you can show any hard evidence (such as DNA proof), it could still be false regarding the GP reasoning -- false claim to be related to a historically important person.

Re:Did anyone else read Gnome Hacker? (2)

joelleo (900926) | about a year ago | (#45278459)

That was kinda the point. "...to hear her tell the tale" insinuates doubt. I'm not convinced of it, but mom is. Whoosh?

Re:Did anyone else read Gnome Hacker? (1)

jfengel (409917) | about a year ago | (#45281011)

I find it somewhat closer to the original sense of "hacker": he hacked some code together to get something done. I'd kinda like to see that sense return, but I'm afraid that ship has sailed.

Re:Did anyone else read Gnome Hacker? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#45281855)

âoeEveryone wants to trace their family back to royalty,â she says.

If you look at the math, chances are almost everyone is related to royalty, if you go back far enough. Do you have any idea how many descendants my 35 times great grandfather has? Especially remembering that 75 years ago and earlier everyone had big families and lots of kids?

There's gotta be a joke in here somewhere... (3, Funny)

mooingyak (720677) | about a year ago | (#45275037)

"Think they all know each other?"

nah, too lame.

"Booking a venue for the reunions must be a bitch."

eh, not any less lame.

"I wonder how many of them slept with each other."

More icky than funny, but so far the best I've got.

Think of the Poor Bastards (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about a year ago | (#45275553)

Leave it to a geneticists to clean up the sloppy work of fathers and genealogists.

Re:There's gotta be a joke in here somewhere... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45277041)

Don't worry -- there's gotta be a funny uncle in there that help you out.

Re:There's gotta be a joke in here somewhere... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#45277951)

Just don't get him confused with the "funny" uncle.

Re:There's gotta be a joke in here somewhere... (1)

ausekilis (1513635) | about a year ago | (#45279589)

My first thought was "How did he get so much information about Kentucky?" But then I realized that's only a fraction [census.gov] of the numbers he has.

Re:There's gotta be a joke in here somewhere... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45308901)

The American Bar Association had the names removed when it was discovered Mike Godwin [wikipedia.org] was a direct descendant Adolph Hitler.

"stripped the names from the data to protect priva (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275039)

That's some bullshit. I want to see if I've banged any distant cousins

Re:"stripped the names from the data to protect pr (2)

filthpickle (1199927) | about a year ago | (#45275667)

cause you already marked off all the close ones?

Source material is unreliable (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275083)

The online family tress they're using as source material are notoriously unreliable. They don't include sources, errors are copied from tree to tree by name collectors, and many links are often incorrect. I can't believe they think they can draw a conclusion from any of it. Respectable genealogists would laugh at this endeavor.

Re:Source material is unreliable (5, Insightful)

tomtomtom (580791) | about a year ago | (#45275407)

Even if all the information were a 100% accurate representation of the actual records and all links were correct, the original records likely contain numerous errors or important omissions; to take the most obvious point, there is likely to be almost no way to verify whether children were legitimate or not. So its usefulness for genetic study seems doubtful to me as many generations later I suspect those sort of effects are difficult to pick up or isolate properly in living people's genes.

What's worse, in some historical periods it would not have been uncommon for some children to be biologically unrelated to either of their legal parents - e.g. lovechild of an affair the man had with a woman who was also sleeping with other men (but who claimed he was the father as he represented the best economic/social prospect of the possibilities), after which the man might take responsibility and raise the child as his own.

Re:Source material is unreliable (2)

filthpickle (1199927) | about a year ago | (#45275727)

in some historical periods it would not have been uncommon for some children to be biologically unrelated to either of their legal parents

Jer-ryJer-ry Jerr-ry

tomtomtom.....you are not the father of this post.

Re:Source material is unreliable (3, Funny)

rssrss (686344) | about a year ago | (#45275873)

" in some historical periods it would not have been uncommon for some children to be biologically unrelated to either of their legal parents"

historical periods? Don't you ever watch the Maury Povich show?

Re:Source material is unreliable (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#45276243)

You can pretty much* guarantee when a woman gives birth, she is the mother so there is a valid matriarchal family tree.

* unless gestational surrogacy was common back in the day...

Re:Source material is unreliable (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about a year ago | (#45279289)

Errors is putting it kindly. People lie about paternity. They have skeletons they want firmly kept in closets. And they have no compunction about falsifying all the records. Genealogists were disliked for being nosy, and the entire field was slandered as something only weirdos could find interesting. There was a medical study done back in the 1940's that as an aside also could determine paternity. What they found was a whopping 10% of the babies were fathered by someone other than the husband. They kept that finding quiet, as it would have caused a huge ruckus back then. Further research has found the illegitimacy rate varies from 5% all the way up to 30%.

Historic periods? Humanity hasn't changed that much. This is still going on today, count on it. Though with paternity testing becoming easier and easier, sneaking around behind the barn may be in for a permanent decline. Too easy for the cheaters to be found out today.

Re:Source material is unreliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45280845)

Don't count on it. Despite the strenuous objections of many the natural pattern of human sexuality is neither monogamy or polygamy but a dirty halfway house best described as serial monogamy with cheating. We were born to sneak off behind the barn.

Re:Source material is unreliable (3, Insightful)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about a year ago | (#45276727)

The article does comment on this.

If you're using a maximum likelihood analysis, your model can allow for unreliable data. E.g. you could assign a 10% chance that the paternity is not as recorded. Then you would have probability calculations like
P(child inherited gene from father)=0.9*P('father' (according to genealogy) had the gene)+0.1*P(random male in the population had the gene).

You can even make the 'false paternity rate' a parameter in your model, so the data itself will tell you what value is best. However, if the data is too unreliable, all that your maximum likelihood analysis will tell you is "we can't conclude anything from this data". (Assuming you correctly model the unreliability. If you don't, your analysis is liable to give false results.)

Maximum likelihood is not always computationally feasible, depending on the model you're trying to fit and how much data you have.

Re:Source material is unreliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45277957)

In my mother's side of the family they have re-used first names for many generations: so the eldest son is Hugh in one generation and the second son is Roger; in the following generation the eldest son is Roger and the second Hugh. It makes tracing hard to do

Anonymized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275131)

Stripping the names is a laughable defence against deanonymization. This tree will be deanonymized in no time.

Hacker Hacked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275163)

Given that Nature has the headline 'Genome hacker ...', I think it's fair to say that, at long last, the term "Hacker" has finally been redefined and now no longer means "computer criminal" to the general public. Sure, there is still some way to go with the uninformed, but by and large that battle has been won.

Next up: free software.

13 million members... (1)

flargleblarg (685368) | about a year ago | (#45275191)

...Tee hee hee hee hee

Re:13 million members... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275311)

Statistically more like 6.5 million.

Tree definitely not accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275337)

Based on what we know about human behavior, many of the links on that tree are not correct [wikipedia.org] .

Non-paternity events (2)

ZorkZero (6507) | about a year ago | (#45275369)

I wonder how they will track non-paternity. People with random fathers pop up everywhere in studies like this, at a rate of something like 10-15%.

Re:Non-paternity events (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275459)

TL;DR: Genetic testing may reveal that this is actually the milk man's family tree.

Must be GK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275567)

Is this the family tree going back to Genghis Khan?

Re:Must be GK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45278563)

"Is this the family tree going back to Genghis Khan?"

No this one was called Adam. No family name, like the village idiot.

How did they get so many samples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45275647)

Were these all collected with consent?

That's a lot of fucking (0)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about a year ago | (#45276007)

Think of all the STDs.

Uncovered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45276115)

Where were these 13 million people hinding?

And the guy at the root of the tree is named... (1)

ulatekh (775985) | about a year ago | (#45276559)

Clayvon [imdb.com] .

(Credited as "Trashy Guy" here, for some reason.)

Re:And the guy at the root of the tree is named... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45285051)

I do believe that's "Cleavon".

On the other hand... (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | about a year ago | (#45276787)

If they'd conducted this project in the southern United States, the family tree might be nearly as large, but it would look more like a yardstick.

Re:On the other hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45276869)

Be civil! It would look like a nice wicker basket

Re:On the other hand... (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#45277707)

My family tree has routing loops. It drives the case officers nuts when they raid the ranch.

"genome hacker" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45277779)

As far as I can tell, his tree is not even based on DNA sequences..

Hang911 (1)

Lê Hằng (3415129) | about a year ago | (#45278097)

"Think they all know each other?" - tai game mario [taigamemario.mobi]

But... but... race is just a 'social construct'... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45278343)

... we can't allow this data to get out!

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