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The Amazing Science of Genetics : A Library Program On Genetic Genealogy and A Reading List


The Amazing Science of Genetics : A Library Program On Genetic Genealogy and A Reading List

Genetics– the scientific study of genes, heredity and DNA– is intellectually fascinating, but it also has plenty of practical applications. From the use of DNA in court cases to the discovery of new therapies for genetic diseases, a thorough understanding of the human genome can have important medical, social, and legal impacts.

Understanding the genetic basis behind human disease is one of the most important reasons for studying the human genome. Human genetic information has been used in forensics to either match or rule out a suspect’s DNA to biological evidence found at a crime scene, to identify victims, and to exonerate convicted individuals using newer genetic methods not available at the time of the initial conviction. Paternity testing is another common legal application of genetic testing.

Genetic genealogy is the use of genealogical DNA tests, i.e, DNA profiling and DNA testing, in combination with traditional genealogical methods, to study family history, and to identify ancestors and family members by discovering genetic matches.

On February 16 at 2pm, the library will present a program on genetic genealogy by professional  genealogist Elyse Ross of Last Leaf Genealogy. She will give an overview of how this tool can be used in tracing your family tree, and to help determine your ancestry and genealogical origins. You will learn how consumer DNA tests help find family members for adoptees and others who don’t know their biological family. She will also talk of how this methodology is used by law enforcement to solve violent crimes and identify human remains.  

Here are books available with your Library card that offer elucidating reads on the science of genetics, and its applications.

Note: Descriptions are taken from the publishers


As Gods : A Moral History Of The Genetic Age by Matthew Cobb

Traces the thrilling and terrifying history of genetic engineering, showing that this revolutionary technology is far too important to be left to the scientists. They have the power to change life itself, but should we trust them to keep their ingenuity from producing a hellish reality? 


The Book Of Genes And Genomes by Susanne B. Haga

This title includes information on how genetics and genomics has advanced our understanding of health and medicine, evolution, and biology, as well as how they are pushing the boundaries of ethics and social values.


The Code Breaker : Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, And The Future Of The Human Race by Walter Isaacson (also available as an audiobook on CD, e-audiobook, and ebook)

The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with an account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.


DNA Testing : Genealogy And Forensics edited by the New York Times editorial staff

The Human Genome Project completed sequencing the entire human genetic code in 2003, two years ahead of schedule. That brisk pace has characterized the private genomics industry as well, with prices for personal sequencing dropping from tens of thousands to only hundreds of dollars in less than a decade. Through this collection of articles, readers will recognize how DNA testing has opened new doors in medicine and science, as well as sparked new questions about medical ethics, human ancestry, and the self.


Editing Humanity : The CRISPR Revolution And The New Era Of Genome Editing by Kevin Davies

This book takes readers inside the fascinating world of a new gene editing technology called CRISPR, a high-powered genetic toolkit that enables scientists to not only engineer but to edit the DNA of any organism down to the individual building blocks of the genetic code.


The Family Tree Guide To DNA Testing And Genetic Genealogy by Blaine Bettinger

This plain-English guide, newly revised and expanded, is a one-stop resource on genetic genealogy for family historians. Inside, you’ll learn what DNA tests are available, with up-to-date pros and cons of the major testing companies (including AncestryDNA) and advice on choosing the right test to answer your specific questions. 


The Family Tree Toolkit : A Comprehensive Guide To Uncovering Your Ancestry And Researching Genealogy by Kenyatta Berry

Whether you are looking for your African, Asian, European, or Jewish ancestry, this toolkit guides you on how and where to begin, what records are available both online and in repositories, what to do once you find the information, how to share your story and, of course, how to discover the secrets of your DNA.


The Forever Witness : How DNA And Genealogy Solved A Cold Case Double Murder by Edward Humes

A relentless detective and a civilian genealogist solve a haunting cold case-and launch a crime-fighting revolution that tests the fragile line between justice and privacy. But as this crime-fighting technique spreads, its sheer power has sparked a national debate- Can we use DNA to catch the murderers among us, yet still protect our last shred of privacy in the digital age-the right to the very blueprint of who we are? 


The Genetic Lottery : Why DNA Matters For Social Equality by Kathryn Paige Harden

Harden introduces readers to the latest genetic science, dismantling dangerous ideas about racial superiority and challenging us to grapple with what equality really means in a world where people are born different. Weaving together personal stories with scientific evidence, Harden shows why our refusal to recognize the power of DNA perpetuates the myth of meritocracy, and argues that we must acknowledge the role of genetic luck if we are ever to create a fair society.


The Genome Defense : Inside The Epic Legal Battle To Determine Who Owns Your DNA by Jorge L. Contreras (also available as an ebook and e-audiobook)

In this riveting, behind-the-scenes courtroom drama, a brilliant legal team battles corporate greed and government overreach for our fundamental right to control our genes.  When Chris Hansen, an ACLU lawyer, learned that the US government was issuing patents for human genes to biotech companies, his first thought was: How can a corporation own what makes us who we are? Then he discovered that women were being charged exorbitant fees to test for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer – all because Myriad Genetics had patented the famous BRCA genes. So he sued them. 


The Genome Odyssey : Medical Mysteries And The Incredible Quest To Solve Them by Euan Angus Ashley (also available as an ebook)

Through breakthroughs made by Dr. Ashley’s team at Stanford and other dedicated groups around the world, analyzing the human genome has decreased from a heroic multibillion dollar effort to a single clinical test costing less than $1,000. For the first time we have within our grasp the ability to predict our genetic future, to diagnose and prevent disease before it begins, and to decode what it really means to be human. In this work, Dr. Ashley details the medicine behind genome sequencing with clarity and accessibility.


I Know Who You Are : How An Amateur DNA Sleuth Unmasked The Golden State Killer And Changed Crime Fighting Forever by Barbara Rae-Venter

The amateur DNA sleuth who solved one of the most infamous cold cases in American history-the Golden State Killer crime spree-tells the incredible true story of how she did it, and explains how her methods have forever changed criminal investigations. Tracking her improbable journey to becoming the nation’s leading authority in investigative genetic genealogy, Rae-Venter also details other extraordinary cases that she has worked on, from the first criminal cold case she ever cracked-uncovering the long-lost identity of a child abductee-to the heartbreaking case of the Billboard Boy, which began with unidentified remains dumped along a North Carolina highway.


The Lost Family : How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland

Journalist Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. She explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story.


Mapping Humanity : How Modern Genetics Is Changing Criminal Justice, Personalized Medicine, And Our Identities by Joshua Z. Rappoport

Northwestern University biology professor and research director Rappoport provides a detailed look at how the explosion in genetic information as a result of cutting-edge technologies is changing our lives and our world.


Understanding DNA Ancestry by Sheldon Krimsky

Krimsky, a leading researcher, investigates the methods that different companies use for DNA ancestry testing. He also discusses what the tests are used for, from their application in criminal investigations to discovering missing relatives.  With a lack of transparency from companies in sharing their data, absent validation of methods by independent scientists, and currently no agreed-upon standards of accuracy, this book also examines the ethical issues behind genetic genealogy testing, including concerns surrounding data privacy and security.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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