Research Article

Quantitative analysis of population-scale family trees with millions of relatives

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Science  13 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6385, pp. 171-175
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9309

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Quantitative analysis of millions of relatives

Human relationships, as documented by family trees, can elucidate the heritability of a host of medical and biological parameters. Kaplanis et al. collected 86 million publicly available profiles from a crowd-sourced genealogy website and used them to examine the genetic architecture of human longevity and migration patterns (see the Perspective by Lussier and Keinan). Various models of inheritance suggested that life span is predominantly attributable to additive genetic effects, with a smaller component from dominant genetic inheritance. The data also suggested that relatedness between individuals is less attributable to advances in human transportation than to cultural changes.

Science, this issue p. 171; see also p. 153


Family trees have vast applications in fields as diverse as genetics, anthropology, and economics. However, the collection of extended family trees is tedious and usually relies on resources with limited geographical scope and complex data usage restrictions. We collected 86 million profiles from publicly available online data shared by genealogy enthusiasts. After extensive cleaning and validation, we obtained population-scale family trees, including a single pedigree of 13 million individuals. We leveraged the data to partition the genetic architecture of human longevity and to provide insights into the geographical dispersion of families. We also report a simple digital procedure to overlay other data sets with our resource.

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