There may be a new record for the largest family tree ever assembled. The thing dates back to the 15th century. It is comprised of 13 million individuals. And it is only one part of an even larger collection of genomic information: a collection compiled by the computational biologist Yaniv Erlich and stored not in albums or on walls, but in machines. Presented at the annual meeting American Society of Human Genetics in Boston, and discussed in the journal Nature, the mega-repository could offer a new way for researchers to analyze the relationships between human genotypes and phenotypes—between, essentially, nature and nurture.
In the past, such expansively branched informational trees would have been painstaking to cultivate. We have documentation, sure, of family relationships and the traits associated with them—church records, hospital logs, that kind of thing—but gathering those documents for analysis took time. Assembling genealogical data for even just a few thousand individuals, Erlich noted during his ASHG presentation, could take years.