Tuesday, October 7, 2014

To DNA test or not to DNA test...what's your opinion?


Castle Garden in New York, 1840 (precursor to Ellis Island) - Library of Congress


Genetic genealogy.

This phrase is simultaneously overwhelming and magical for me.  My angst comes from not enough time to devote to learn, grow my understanding, and fully digest all that this field has for newbie genealogists like me (hello, life...I need about 4 extra hours in my day strategically placed after children are asleep at night).  Excitement comes from the obvious: discovering what I don't know I don't know.

I was recently asked to give a short talk about my foray into DNA research at our weekly meeting for amateur family researchers in our community.  Talk about angst!  Overwhelming!  Wanting to shout from the rooftops, "I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing!"

No shouting was involved (thank goodness) - just a bit of sharing.  Both my husband, my mother, and I have tested with AncestryDNA.  My dear husband has also tested with 23andMe.  Two very different motivating factors led us to submit samples for testing.  For myself - just sheer curiosity and wanting to discover how my DNA ethnicity would match my "paper" tree.  For my husband - a desire to track down the birth family of a paternal great-grandfather, Joseph William Daly (1869-1934) who was orphaned as a young boy.  Here is an article I wrote last year about our AncestryDNA results.

In the past year, we have experienced so many research twists and turns thanks to our DNA results...which provide cousin "matches" and contact info for people with whom you share matching bits of chromosomes.  The Ancestry.com product isn't nearly as robust as others (FamilyTreeDNA, for example), but it has given us a comfortable jumping-off point for learning.

Have we solved any of our lingering mysteries?  Not yet, but we're definitely closer on the Joseph Daly question.  Ironically enough, I have communicated via email with at least two other contacts through AncestryDNA and GedMatch.com who were adopted and are in search of birth families OR have immediate relatives who were orphaned at birth.  Fascinating and mind-melting.

SO - onward, ho.  Here is a fantastic article from one of my favorite genealogy blogs - The Legal Genealogist - reflecting her thoughts on DNA testing.  Is it the end-all-be-all?  Should it be considered on equal footing as a true paper "source"?  Give this a read: "Leaping into the Unknown".

Happy hunting!

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