Researchers Create Largest Human Family Tree To Date

Posted: Mar 4 2018, 10:39am CST | by , Updated: Mar 4 2018, 10:46am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Researchers Create Largest Human Family Tree to Date
Credit: Columbia University

The massive family tree includes 13 million individuals and spans an average of 11 generations

Researchers have recently put together the world’s largest family tree that connects a staggering 13 million people spanning 11 generations. The dataset is greater than the population of Cuba or Belgium and sheds light on migration patterns in Europe and North America and how people belonging to different regions married to each other over the past 500 years.

The family tree was created by incorporating data from one of the largest online genealogical websites. The site contains 86 million public profiles and keeps a continuous and complete record of birth and death of each individual. Almost 85 percent of profiles in the site come from Europe and North America.

“Through the hard work of many genealogists curious about their family history, we crowdsourced an enormous family tree and boom, came up with something unique," said study author, Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University. "We hope that this dataset can be useful to scientists researching a range of other topics."

After downloading million of profiles, researchers used mathematical graph theory to organize the data and to verify its authenticity. By looking at the vast data, researchers tried to find answers to important questions about the human population. For example, it reveals when people stopped marrying their cousins, how farther they traveled for marriage today and in the past or whether genes affect longevity.

Before 1850, it was common for fourth cousins to marry. But now people do not like to marry someone that is so closely related to them, suggesting a shift in marriage choices. Before 1750, most people in the United States found a spouse within 6 miles (10 kilometers) of their own birthplace. Nowadays, people tend to travel farther, about 60 miles, to find a perfect match.

To understand the link between genes and longevity, researchers built a model and included 3 million relatives born between 1600 and 1910 who had lived past the age of 30. When they compared each individual's lifespan to that of their relatives, they found that genes contribute to about 16 percent of the longevity.

"The reconstructed pedigrees show that we are all related to each other," said Peter Visscher, a quantitative geneticist at University of Queensland who was not involved in the study. "This fact is known from basic population history principles, but what the authors have achieved is still very impressive."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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