Friday, October 25, 2013

I Ordered My DNA Kit!

I may have mentioned before that I am still in school. My new job requires that I obtain a second master's degree. This requires that I make four very large payments per semester; the last of which I made today! YAY!

I promised myself that after I made this semester's last payment I would treat myself to a DNA kit from AncestryDNA. Aww, yay! Now there is a treat!!

You may be wondering - - what the heck? or hell or some other profane word I will not write here. Why would I want a DNA kit?

Well, for sometime now DNA has been used in genealogy research.

I know what you're thinking, "Don't you know who your father is?" Hee, hee, hee. Yeah, I do. I look just like him. Unlike all those kids on those Jerry Springer episodes, I have no doubt who my dad is.

DNA, though, can be used for so much more than confirming paternity. It can help one dig deeper into her/his genealogy research. How you ask. Well, I am glad you asked that...

At some point records run out. Birth certificates just didn't exist when Jacob Raynor was born in the 1770s on Long Island. Oh sure there were church registers of baptisms but those registers haven't survived. And frankly, I am at the stage in my research where almost every line of my family tree has hit a brick wall. So what do I do? Just call my family tree complete? Well, I suppose I could but...

Inside each of my cells lives information about who I came from. Analysis of my DNA will provide me with information about my genetic ethnicity and linking me with others who share my DNA. In other words, this test will confirm the regions of the world that my ancestors came from AND link me to other cousins; living, breathing, researching cousins.

When this DNA analysis first started it was most helpful to ethnic groups like African-Americans. Their ancestral information was lost due the institution of slavery in this country. Few records existed for African-Americans before Emancipation. DNA testing can determine which region of the world one's DNA stems from; thus, African-American could learn what region of Africa their ancestors most likely came from giving them an ancestral homeland. Very cool.

Now it doesn't give you a family tree. It won't tell you the names and dates of birth for your grandparents. It will point you to a region where genes matching yours are most prevalent in the inhabitants.

Now I can tell you many areas of Europe my ancestors came from through records. Again, though, records only go back so far. This testing can take me further back in time.

And what is this business about connecting to cousins? 

Well, once they examine my DNA, the results will be matched to others who have already taken these DNA tests. Those individuals whose DNA patterns match mine are cousins; we have some direct line ancestor in common. Not "they could be cousins," No they ARE cousins. Figuring out how I connect to those who share my DNA will open up a whole new realm of research for me. 

Additionally, that means this test should tell me that Cousin Mary over at Threading Needles in a Haystack  is my cousin. 

How is that? 

Well, Cousin Mary has already taken this test and so she is in the AncestryDNA database. She and I share a common set of ancestor. Her 5th great grandparents are my 6th great grandparents. And although that sounds really far away, genetically speaking 200 years ago is very recent. These test results should match us up because we undoubtedly share some DNA.

We'll see!

And honestly, I couldn't think of a better way to finish celebrating Family History Month than by doing this; by trying to open up my research road blocks and connect to more family.

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