Longevity: Cracking Your Code in Reverse.

Long before Ancestry.com, my interest in researching our family tree goes back to when, in my mid-twenties, I made several trips to England, poking around cemeteries, municipal and church record offices in places like Plymouth and Exeter. It was fun and it satisfied my curiosity in family history, but it really did little to fill in the cracks of missing and accurate information.

That all changed a few years ago thanks to the due diligence of my brother, using not only Ancestry.com, but also by employing the help of a professional in Cornwall to dig deeper to validate the records. As the saying goes, “be careful what you look for”. What my “Sibling Sleuth” detailed was more than my feeble attempts ever did; and he uncovered more story including some missing links that even today are lurking mysteries.

DNA cocktail of the ages

Fast forward, summer 2015. AncestryDNA. Sibling Sleuth strikes again. It’s now more than tracking down Great Aunt Daisy, a work still in progress. We now have what they call an “ethnicity estimate” that combines both our parent’s family DNA cocktail of the ages that takes into account way more history than the nearer time frame of the 18-1900’s.

While I’m still fascinated about who these people actually were, imagining how they spoke, and maybe how much of my character is like them, there is a part of ancestry exploration that has fast become a larger lucrative endeavour. The “ancestry business” is big business and it plays into the even larger aging and longevity market. Enter AncestryHealth, “let your health history empower you”. If that isn’t enough there are several other ancestry and genetics players out there like the DNA Ancestry Project and 23andMe.

But the big blast for me came with the July 21 press release announcing that Calico, the Google- backed biotech company, will be collaborating with AncestryDNA to “analyze and investigate the role of genetics and its influences in families experiencing unusual longevity….Calico will then focus its efforts to develop and commercialize any potential therapeutics that emerge from the analysis.” Is there any message here as to what “potential” areas you might want to invest in?

Unusual longevity

What is unusual longevity? My Great-Grandfather lived to 78, Grandfather 75, and Father 83. Given the times they lived in (spanning from 1842 -2008), and considering the fact they all fought in and survived three different wars, you might say that theirs was a very decent longevity. We also have fairly good accounts of the health issues of these men as well as some ancestry on my Mother’s side, all largely without the help of specific genetic data.

So, what we are on to here is cracking our longevity code in reverse and I’m hooked; which is what AncestryDNA, Calico and the like are counting on – our continued preoccupation with understanding where we descended from, how we managed to make it to now, and how we are going to better experience a modern longevity.

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