DNA and Genealogy

DNA is beginning to find usage within the genealogical community. It is being advocated by such diverse interests as Brigham Young University and private genetics companies. References at the end of the article will aid those seeking a more detailed examination.

Brigham Young University is embarked on a program to do Molecular Genealogy. In essence , it uses genetic markers to indicate the relatedness of individuals, families, tribal groups and populations. One can imagine that if we had everyone's DNA from the beginning of time we would be doing genealogy in a much different fashion than we do today. Instead of looking up surnames, we would look up genetic markers until we found matches on our matrilineal or patrilineal lines.

Perhaps we all became aware of DNA and genealogy when DNA was used to prove that Thomas Jefferson had fathered a child with Sally Hemmings. But most of us were not aware of how DNA testing can be used in a much wider context. BYU's immediate goal is to determine the genetic composition of the major populations of the world by testing individuals in 500 distinct populations from all over the world. Where possible these individuals will have a family history going back four generations.

This information should have a direct bearing on reconstructing history as well as genealogy. Data will serve to establish ancient immigration and migration patterns. Individual families may be traced back to ancestral homelands pre-dating their written genealogical history.

On a more individual basis, genetic information may be used to overcome "dead ends" where genealogical records are inadequate to provide a complete family history.

This article will only touch the surface of this relatively new genealogical subject but through the links presented here, an interested person may expand his or her knowledge in the area of interest.

Molecular Genealogy

Molecular Genealogy uses genetic markers to link individuals together in a family tree. Brigham Young University is using it to establish ethnic, tribal, and geographic origination of ancestors. A description of the process and some early results may be found at this site. A further description may be found here.

Native American Match

Through genetic testing, you can determine whether you have Native American DNA inherited on the maternal side of your family. Studies show that Native American mitochondrial DNA's (mtDNA) belong to one of five maternal groups. It would serve no purpose here to try to paraphrase other documents when a clearer understanding might be found in the reference document itself. One such document is from Family Tree DNA, Genealogy By Genetics, Ltd.

Common Ancestor

Another use for DNA is to see if two people have a common ancestor. The test is for the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA). Samples (usually blood) are obtained from two people and a determination is made as to their relationship. Reference again is to Family Tree DNA but certainly other organizations exist that perform the same services. More information will be found here.

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