The Atlantic

The 'Genome Hacker' Who Mapped a 13-Million-Person Family Tree

Huge crowdsourced genealogy databases are inspiring new genetics research.
Source: Yaniv Erlich / The Atlantic

Yaniv Erlich has been a white-hat hacker and a geneticist at Columbia University, and now he works for a genealogy company.

This unusual career trajectory has led, most recently, to a 13-million-person family tree unveiled today in Science.

The massive trove of data comes from public profiles on the crowdsourced genealogy website Geni.com, and it sheds light on human longevity and dispersal over time. (I wrote about a preprint of this paper last year.) But most of all, Erlich is excited about overlaying DNA information on top of family trees to study genes implicated in disease.

MyHeritage, the company behind Geni.com, also sells DNA ancestry tests. And since 2017, Erlich has been on leave from Columbia working as MyHeritage’s chief scientific officer to develop those DNA tests.

If that sounds like a lot of datadubbed him the “.”

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic23 min readPolitics
The 2020 U.S. Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet
It’s possible to imagine Governor Steve Bullock of Montana as a presidential nominee. Just not this cycle.
The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: McGahn Fishin’
The president is reportedly going to tell his former White House counsel to skip his congressional hearing on Tuesday. Plus: Why adoption can be an unpopular option for unwanted pregnancies.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The Trade War Is Just the Beginning
“I have been talking about China for many years. And you know what? Nobody listened,” Donald Trump told a crowd outside Pittsburgh in 2016. “But they are listening now.” If China’s leaders didn’t notice a campaign speech then, the president has their