While researching my previous post about MyHeritage’s new integration with 23andMe, I came across a new study being done by 23andMe on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBD) and its related diseases – Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease (two very common diseases, particularly among Ashkenazi Jews). The study is being sponsored by drug company Pfizer, and it seeking 10,000 participants. To join the study you must have been diagnosed with either UC or Crohn’s by a doctor, live in the US, have access to the Internet, and be at least six years old (from 6 to 17 you must have parental consent). If you qualify, they send you a saliva collection kit with a return envelope, and you must send back a saliva sample and fill out some online surveys related to your condition. There’s actually one more qualification for the study, or rather a disqualification – if you are already a customer of 23andMe, you cannot participate in this study. If you are already a customer you can fill out some surveys, but it’s not clear if your DNA data will be included in the study. Interestingly, both Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are significantly more common among Ashkenazi Jews than the general population. This probably means that Jewish participants in this study will outnumber their percentage of the general population. It also might mean that if you have the genetic markers that predispose you to these diseases, joining this study might connect you to a large number of potential relatives, since the group is self-selecting, and if the genetic markers are familial, then you’re more likely to find genetic relatives than on average when there are 10,000 other people with the same condition as you. So what do you get for joining the study, besides knowledge that you are helping further scientific research that might one day benefit you personally? Well, for one you get lifetime access to 23andMe’s Personal Genome Service. For the moment that only deals with genetic genealogy, not the health information that 23andMe previously offered (and still offers to customers who signed up before the ban), but that might return in the future. However, if you’re reading this post, chances are you are interested in genealogy, and if you have one of the very common diseases they are researching, and have not yet signed up for 23andMe, this will save you a $99 sign up fee for their service. The only thing different about the account on 23andMe you receive compared to a regular 23andMe customer who would sign up at the same time, is that it seems you cannot participate in the customer forums. The other difference is of course that you know your DNA is being contributed to a specific study on a disease you have. So if you have Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease, and have not yet signed up for 23andMe, this is a good opportunity to further science and to get access to 23andMe for free. Go check out the 23andMe IBD Study page for further information.
In one of the more interesting announcements in the genealogy world of late, MyHeritage has announced a partnership with genetic testing company 23andMe. Unlike the partnership between MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA which dates back to 2008 and was extended in 2012, this new partnership is not just an affiliate sales relationship. MyHeritage has announced that they will be integrating their service directly with 23andMe, allowing one to confirm relationships in your tree on MyHeritage using the DNA data on 23andMe. Certainly a very interesting development, and it will be interesting to see how far they go with this integration. It will also be interesting to see how the other players in this field respond to this development. MyHeritage, in addition to their namesake site also runs the large Geni.com family tree site. Will Family Tree DNA stay partnered with MyHeritage? Will they seek similar integration with MyHeritage? Will that even be allowed by 23andMe? If not, will they seek to partner with another large family tree web site? Ancestry.com has their own family trees, but also their own DNA tests, so it would seem that’s not possible. From there, the size of family tree sites drops dramatically. TribalPages? OneGreatFamily? WikiTree? If the integration is done right, this creates a real strategic advantage for MyHeritage and 23andMe, that it would seem only Ancestry.com can really compete with at this stage. See MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japheth speak about the new partnership on Bloomberg TV here: and read more on MyHeritage’s blog post announcing the new partnership.
Recently I came across an interesting web site, called Mapire, which displays historical maps of the Hapsburg Empire. The maps currently correspond to three military surveys carried out in the time periods 1763-1787, 1806-1869, and 1869-1887. These periods cover different geopolitical periods, when the areas under control were variously called the Hapsburg Empire, the Austrian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The military maps were created at a scale of 1:28,800. What’s really neat about the maps on Mapire, is that they are all synced to current digital maps, so when you zoom in on one of the military maps, it shows on the left side of the window, while the current digital map is shown on the right. An example, for the town of Kańczuga: Cadastral Maps, another kind of state-created map, were created at a scale of 1:2,880, or ten times the resolution. This site does not yet have Cadastral Maps, although some Cadastral Maps for the Galicia region can be found in the Gesher Galicia Map Room.