December 23rd, 2011

_My Beautiful Genome_, Lone Frank (kindle)

Subtitled: Exposing Our Genetic Future, One Quirk at a Time

I've been reluctant to actually dive into any genealogical "work", per se, because I know I can't plan things more than a few minutes into the future at this time of year (if that) and/or I should be using the time for something else. But I can look at January and smirk, so I've been surfing geneablogs and stumbled across mentions of this.

It's a great name, isn't it? The author is a Danish woman only slightly older than me. Much better educated, unmarried and without children (at least at the time of writing), both her parents have already died and she has only one sibling. My imagination doesn't stretch far enough to consider her as having caught the genealogy bug; she is, however, fascinated by what we can know about our genetics and it is from this perspective that she is writing.

It is _exactly_ my kind of non-fiction: a very intelligent woman gets interested in a topic and then proceeds to track down the experts and engage/interact/interview them. _AFTER_ doing a ton of great research. It's no fun watching a novice ask rookie questions (for me, anyway), but it is hugely entertaining and enlightening to watch an informed non-careerist go around and make connections around and throughout a rarefied field which has real-world impact.

Does she go around having every conceivable test done to herself, her family and her romantic interests? Of course! Does she have ideas about what they're going to say? Yes! Is she generally right? Sure!

Her authorial voice is very present, but her self-description suggests that the impression a reader has of her and the impression someone meeting her in person might have of her could differ substantially. No way to know which is more accurate. But the whole is cohesive (smart, educated, painfully sensitive to how things including words affect herself but not necessarily great at anticipating her effect on others) and believable. There are moments where I would dearly love to know how consciously certain writerly decisions were made (letting a neo-eugenicist go on about the "burden on society" of some genetic diseases while simultaneously puffing away on a cigarette). If conscious, I absolutely applaud them. If unconscious, I sure hope they eventually become conscious.

The book is absolutely worth your time in terms of content. I personally _love_ the style, but I recognize that such a pervasive, personal authorial voice is off-putting to some consumers of non-fiction. Forewarned, etc.

Oh, and she really is Danish. She's not Danish-American or an immigrant or whatever; there's a great deal of interest in her interactions with the health system at home and in other European countries and so forth, at least for an American who really wonders how health care works in other places. I don't mean on a who-pays-for-what basis; I mean on how advice is delivered and the content of that advice and so forth.

autosomal genetic testing

I was looking for something else and stumbled across this:

Family Tree DNA and others offer products that have statements like this associated with them:

"Matches are related within about the last 5 generations.*"

I'm not suggesting that what Family Tree DNA and others are doing is precisely what is described in the journal article. But they are probably, er, related.

Neat that once you have your data, you don't necessarily need to pay someone else to do the analysis. You could do it yourself, if you had someone particular in mind to compare yourself to. What Family Tree DNA and others offer is matching against everyone else they've tested and putting you in touch with each other if the match is close enough. It would be dating, only instead, it's finding genealogists who share chunks of ancestry. Which is pretty cool, if you are into that kind of thing.

great-uncle vs. grand-uncle

Again, _stumbled_ over this. Great-uncle is the one R. and I are familiar with, however, it's pretty trivial to find genealogical types online who are prepared to start a fight in favor of grand uncle. Those same types are prepared to concede that _great_ uncle is more commonly used -- but not that that is a valid argument in its favor. For what little it is worth, wikipedia asserts equivalency between the two terms and that neither is more correct. They both have age in their favor and it is possible that grand uncle is older than great uncle. One should never attempt to apply logic to language, of course.

My question is not simple to convey. Has the "genealogical community" such as it is, decided that grand-uncle is preferred and, if so, is there a stated basis for the claim? Because if this comes down to, well, one is in the OED from the 1470s and the other doesn't show up until a century later, that's a sillier argument that which-one-is-more-commonly-used. I am _not_ asking which one is correct. That's a question based on a false premise (that there is an over-arching frame which could provide a context for an answer).

I would treat this as an indication:

an uncle/aunt of one's father or mother. In U.S. frequently seen as "great-uncle" which is equivalent. Grand uncle is the older form, and is preferred."

This is _not_ where I first or second stumbled across the issue.