Mark Hyman is a member of the adoptee and genetic genealogy communities. He is part of the DNA Adoption group with Patty Drabing, Karin Corbeil, and Diane Harman-Hoog. The DNA Adoption team provides classes that help adoptees and others searching for family understand and use DNA test results.

Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman

Question: Please tell me about yourself. What do you do for a living? What are your other hobbies and interests apart from genealogy?

Answer: I’m a patent attorney specializing in biopharmaceuticals. Other than genealogy, I do some amateur auto racing (Formula 1 style; I have an open wheel race car) and scuba diving when I can get away. But mostly I read a lot. 🙂

Question: What brought you to genealogy? What is your favorite part?

Answer: I got into genealogy in 2012 to capture my wife’s family tree; she received an extensive tree from a Texas landsman who was tracing royalties owed on a gas lease that her second great grandfather had sold long ago. That led me to capture my adopted family’s tree, and eventually piqued my interest to renew my adoption search and seeing what I could do with my autosomal test data. My favorite part is definitely genetic genealogy.

Question: How did you become involved in genetic genealogy?

Answer: I initially became interested in genetic genealogy originally in early 2010, when I took the 23&Me test to see what I could learn as an adoptee. But although I had some distant matches and was interested in the ancestry predictions, I didn’t get much out of it then. I focused more on the medical info, though the haplogroups were nice to know.

Question: The need for consumer genetic testing standards has been a topic for years now. To what extent do you think government regulation is needed?

Answer: Since I work in an FDA-regulated industry, I come at this with a different perspective than many in the genealogy community. I think government regulation is warranted when testing companies make medical/diagnostic claims based on test results. 23andMe was in a grey area for most of its early days, and ultimately prompted the FDA to step in. But there should be the opportunity for consumers to get their own testing data and some context; Promethease is a good example, as were some of 23andMe’s tests. Outside of the medical/diagnostic arena, I think regulation should be quite limited, and focused on protecting consumer’s information and rights. GINA is a good start, but there are still issues (life insurance, etc.).

Question: Do you feel that the responsibility for consumer education lies with the testing companies, the citizen science community, or the consumer?

Answer: That’s a complicated question too. For medical/diagnostic focused testing, the testing company bears quite a bit of responsibility. For genealogy testing, the companies may want to do so for commercial reasons, but there’s a much bigger role for citizen scientists and consumers to educate themselves.
What DNA tests have you taken?

Autosomal: 23andMe & AncestryDNA (transferred to FTDNA)
yDNA: FTDNA 111 markers, BigY and a few SNPs (before BigY)
Mitochondrial: FTDNA full sequence

Question: Have you tested your family?

Answer: Yes, several. My adopted parents, my wife, and one of my wife’s paternal relatives for her father’s yDNA line.
Have your or your family’s test results ever been a surprise?

Not yet, though one of my adopted mother’s cousins found that a good friend from high school was an unexpected 2nd cousin. They haven’t figured it out yet. 🙂

Question: Has genetic genealogy helped you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery?

Answer: Yes. I had located my birth mother through traditional adoption searching, but before I contacted her, I used genetic genealogy to confirm that I had the right family. I’m still working to determine my birth father’s identity. I’ve also been able to break through some brick walls for my wife and my adopted family.

Question: Do you have advice for someone starting out in genealogy or genetic genealogy DNA?

Answer: Definitely do your research on genetic genealogy- read a book, take a course, etc. The testing companies aren’t doing enough education. Get tests for those older relatives while you can.

Question: What do you think the future holds for genetic genealogy?

Answer: As the databases get larger, I see genetic genealogy becoming increasingly important for all genealogy efforts. Of course, there are limits for older generations; autosomal testing can only go so far. But for younger generations, especially adoptees, donor conceived children, and others with little to no information, genetic genealogy will give them much more information about their ancestry than ever before.