Tag Archives: genetics

Making Those Unknown Known

I think that when you die, you should be able to hold on to your history and who you are and for others to know that here is this person and not just be put into an unmarked grave and no one knows your name. We all deserve our life history and for people to know who we are and where we are.”
— Dr. Jennifer Love, a forensic anthropologist who works to identify people who have died



Gonna have to freshen up on my Czech. I love reading about Mendel.

The Case of the Missing Mendel Manuscript

A story about Gregor Mendel was featured on the front page of a Czech newspaper. The headline translates as The Case of the Missing Mendel Manuscript.

Ever since learning about my own DNA, I have become fascinated with genetics, particularly the human kind. That fascination extends to Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk who lived in the 19th century. He discovered the basic principles of heredity through experiments in his garden using plants such as peas.


I first posted this on my experimental blog at webs.com. Why? Because the wifi at the local Whole Foods would not let me publish it at WordPress for some reason.

Cold Cases & Ted Bundy’s DNA

A vial of blood containing Ted Bundy’s DNA has been found in Florida, thanks to queries from a detective in Tacoma working on the case of Ann Marie Burr, an eight-year-old girl who disappeared from her family home in 1961.

The vial was discovered after Florida authorities received a call from a detective working a cold case in Tacoma, Washington state. The blood had been taken in 1978 when Bundy was arrested in the death of a 12-year-old girl in Columbia County, Florida., The News Tribune in Tacoma reported.

Despite an order to destroy much of the biological evidence in the Florida case, the vial was still on file, said David Coffman, chief of forensic services at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Tallahassee crime lab.

“We were really surprised,” he said.

It is surprising DNA samples weren’t collected for study prior to his execution in 1989. Bundy has been a prime suspect in the abduction of Burr for decades.

He had a paper route and frequently visited his uncle, who lived in the Burr neighborhood. He later studied at the University of Puget Sound [UPS] and University of Washington.

During an interview with King County Detective Robert D. Keppel Bundy mentioned committing homicides in 1972 and 1973, the latter involving a hitchhiker near Tumwater, Washington, but he refused to provide more details.

In 1987 he confided to Keppel that there were “some murders” that he would “never talk about”, because they were committed “too close to home”, “too close to family”, or involved “victims who were very young.”

The coincidences are just too much to overlook.

The Burr house was on Bundy’s newspaper delivery route. The girl’s father is certain he saw Bundy in a ditch at a construction site on the nearby UPS campus the morning his daughter disappeared.

Bundy repeatedly denied being involved in the Burr case. He wrote a letter to the Burr family in 1986, continuing to deny any involvement.

“At the time, I was a normal 14-year-old-boy,” Bundy wrote. “I did not wander the streets late at night. I did not steal cars. I had absolutely no desire to harm anyone. I was just an average kid.”

For years I’ve been intrigued by Bundy and other serial killers, especially the unresolved cases. Other criminal cases, such as D. B. Cooper and the I-5 Killer, have fascinated me.1 Before finding Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer case was another that I’d read a few books and news stories about.

Prior to reading The I-5 Killer by Ann Rule, I had no idea about serious crimes committed in Salem, Oregon, my hometown. As a kid I was pretty naive. One of these incidents happened at what was the TransNational or TransAmerica building. It is now a U.S. Bank. I walk by there frequently. I doubt most people know what occurred in that building so many years ago. The I-5 Killer is still in town, behind walls and barbed wire at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me is a great read for anyone wanting to know more. She worked beside Bundy at a crisis hotline in Seattle, where ironically Ted talked people out of suicide and both tried to help those who called in whatever ways they could.

I remember watching a made-for-TV movie on Bundy, played by Mark Harmon, now more well-known from his stint on NCIS. The movie was frequently replayed on TBS. News reports out of Hollywood reported that it could very well end Harmon’s acting career. Of course, it didn’t, although casting may have been more difficult for him and some may have passed him over because of the role.

As of October 2007, Ted Bundy’s mother still lived in Tacoma. At the time a reporter asked if she’d “break a 25-year silence in speaking about her son. She declined.”

A book about Ann Marie Burr and Ted Bundy will released this fall. Whether or not it will be any good is another question.


1. I share this fascination with sportscaster Colin Cowherd. I was listening to his show this morning, and he was discussing Cooper, Bundy, and a serial killer on Long Island. I actually find Cowherd rather annoying, especially his often inane pontificating on his radio show. I know him from his time working at the NBC affiliate in Portland, KGW. Occassionally I’d watch him, but mostly I just ignored him and his commentary and continue to do so, now more than ever.

Half of European Men Share King Tut’s DNA?

Is it a lot of hype or true?

If the research holds up then I, too, am related to Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, popularly known as King Tut. It’s a big IF because Tut’s DNA profile has been interpolated, which basically means the scientists have made an educated guess. The key word in the press release is “reconstructed.”

The researchers didn’t evaluate the DNA themselves; they say they made their findings “with the help” of a film made for the Discovery Channel.

For science this is a very tricky and dangerous methodology. But it certainly gets your name in the news and can be a good way of generating money. I consider it a sham.

This spring and summer my great uncle’s Y chromosome has been “under the microscope,” providing a few details on his haplogroup, R1b, and some cousins. There haven’t been any matches with men who share his surname — Hay — which is a little odd and frustrating, but I am hoping some connections will pop up eventually. At least the results give me some clues and possible directions to look.

We think the common ancestor lived in the Caucasus about 9,500 years ago.”

Geneticists in Switzerland claim that up to 70 percent of British men and half of all Western European men are related to Tut.

The results showed that King Tut belonged to a genetic profile group, known as haplogroup R1b1a2, to which more than 50 percent of all men in Western Europe belong, indicating that they share a common ancestor.

In Egyptian men today this haplogroup makes up less than one percent of the population.

Around 70 percent of Spanish and 60 percent of French men also belong to the genetic group of the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

It is estimated that the earliest migration of haplogroup R1b1a2 into Europe began with the spread of agriculture in 7,000 BC . . . .

The group is now on the hunt for living relatives of Tut, and their money, to test. DNA testing is a great thing and for companies to pull off such stunts really gives the industry a bad reputation, discouraging the common man from using the technology.


My Great Uncle’s DNA

Ever since my great uncle agreed to submit a sample of his DNA for testing, I’ve been waiting to be notified by email of the results. It never happened.1

A few days ago I received a message about a sale at the company I’ve been using for the testing. So I logged in today and discovered that his results have been completed, probably for awhile.2 At the time I only had enough dough for the most minimal  test, which looks at 12 spots on his Y chromosome.

I input these at online using a tool developed by a man named Whit Athey. The results gave a resounding no doubt that he, and the male Hay line, are in a group known as R1b. (It’s known as a haplogroup, but I don’t want to get too technical.)

The 12 markers returned a “fitness score” of 54 and a 100 percent prediction that he is R1b. There are many subgroups within R1b, so further testing, perhaps both STR and SNP, should be worthwhile.


1. Never say never. I just received an email notification on Wednesday evening (dated Thursday) that results had been posted. My logging in and checking today was very timely.

2. Either folks at FTDNA are reading my blog or I just happened to log in the same day as results were posted.