I am J. Bullard MPH, MLS (ASCP)CM and I am the scientist and creator of The Genealogy Laboratory. I graduated with a B.S. in Clinical Laboratory Sciences and a Master of Public Health some years ago. I have been a practicing genealogist for 15 years and a genetic genealogist for the last 10. I have worked as a Medical Laboratory Scientist and a Clinical Analyst for the past decade.
It was during my undergrad school years that I started trying to use the science and clinical techniques I was being taught to determine my ethnicity. I found that in my serology and immunohematology course work I could phenotype myself and possibly determine my ethnic makeup. Serology and immunohematology involve the study of blood banking techniques. As someone that has worked as a blood banker in a clinical laboratory I find the blood testing process fascinating.
Blood bankers are used in hospital and blood donation facilities to test patient samples and donated blood products. The basic testing involves blood type and antibody determination. Antibodies (Ab) are created by your body in order to protect against foreign invaders. Antibodies are stimulated by your bodies antigens (Ag) located on red cells.
What is phenotyping and how is it done?
A person's phenotype is considered the observable characteristics derived from their genotype. Your phenotype can be determined by identifying the antigens found on your red cells. There are two main naming conventions for phenotyping, Fisher-Race and Wiener.
So I decided to phenotype myself. My classmates and I drew our blood as part of our laboratory practicum in order to have samples to work with. I figured since my mother identifies as Caucasian and my father was considered Spanish, that my results would match the typical phenotype of most Caucasians, but that wasn't true. I matched less than .1% of the Caucasian population. I decided to retested myself, I thought maybe I made a mistake.
The second time I tested myself I got the same results, so I compared them to the African American and Asian populations on the phenotyping result chart. My results fell in the less than .1% category for the African American population but I matched 2% of the Asian population. At the time I found the results puzzling, but as the saying goes hindsight is 20/20. So what did my results really mean?
The following semester my studies took me further into the different antibodies and antigens the body can make. One that peaked my interest was the Diego antigen. It is said that the Dia antigen is commonly found in American Indians that are descendants from the Mongolian population. The next day while in the laboratory I looked for a reagent that would allow me to test myself for the Diego antigen but we had none.
Little did I know I was performing genetic genealogy research way before there was a word made to describe it. Along the way I performed extensive traditional research on my family. A few years later Ancestry.com would start offering their autosomal DNA test. Through the following years I took an autosomal and mtDNA test. The results led me to test my father's autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA.
The image below is a typical antibody panel used in blood banking. Notice how Diego is not on there. It is not typical to test for it.
Medical Science Experience
My testing and result interpretation skills:
My upcoming lecture and speaking engagments include:
If you would like me to speak to your group please contact me at: jbullard @ thegenealogylab.com