Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book Review: "Endogamy: One Family, One People"

Anyone with Ashkenazic Jewish heritage--or heritage from other self-contained communities--knows that genetic genealogy is much harder than it is for the typical individual.  We're all related to one another in many ways, and often we're a product of multiple close-cousin marriages.  Therefore, genetic closeness can be amplified, and a predicted 2nd-4th cousin match actually may be a 8th cousin 12 ways without a relationship closer than that.  This isn't to say that there can't be successes--genetic genealogy is how I found my grandfather's aunt's family--it just makes things more difficult.

Israel Pickholtz's new book "Endogamy: One Family, One People" serves to demonstrate how even when dealing with an endogamous population, there is still huge potential in combining genetic genealogy with traditional research.  To do this, he steps through the research he has done with his own family--and the reader can take lessons which can be applicable to his or her own research.
Did I enjoy this book?  Well, let's just say when I finished reading it (staying up way later than I should have), I read it a second time to make sure I caught everything.

A point stressed many times is how critical testing many family members can be.  Each will have inherited different chunks of a mutual ancestor's DNA, so even testing siblings can give more information.  (I saw this recently--my mother's results came back, and her matches were quite different from her brother's.)  Pickholtz leveraged the DNA of multiple known relatives to understand how other relatives were--and were not--related.

Pickholtz approaches DNA differently than many genealogists do.  Rather than using DNA in a more self-centered way to find relatives, he uses it to connect distinct branches.  He uses DNA from known cousins to both add additional ammunition to posited relationships as well as to completely destroy hypotheses.  He has particular goals and clearly lays out his thought process allowing the reader to utilize these methods as well.

The book talks about some of the tools used, one of the most powerful being GedMatch's Lazarus tool, which allowed the author to reconstruct much of his deceased father's and grandfather's genomes, giving him a much more powerful tool for analysis.

Being part of an endogamic population implies that two individuals in that population are likely related on many branches of their families.  This is stressed throughout the book as well as in the title--we are truly "One Family, One People."
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