Genetic Genealogy (DNA) as a family history source

DNA Collage

What triggered my interest in DNA or Genetic Genealogy and its possibility as a source for family history research? It’s time, after two years of exploring DNA tests, to reflect upon why I started and where I have ended up.

Curiousity was the first reason I started looking at DNA. Knowledge of DNA has come a long, long way since my first year in a university lab. But there were other reasons as well I started looking at DNA for family history purposes. It’s always nice to have another primary source to confirm my oral and written family history. I also had the idea that perhaps DNA may help break down some of my family history brick walls. So far this hasn’t been the case in relation to two of my most difficult brick walls. Where there is still some doubt about my conclusions. Finally, as DNA can only be collected from my living relatives I approached a couple of my father’s cousins and was delighted to receive their permission undergo a test. Doubly delighted as I have no living uncles or aunts and only one first cousin.

So how did I go about my DNA testing plan. Certainly, I planned to start with myself. And on talking to my brother we decided to use him as a base, as a reference test. This was a wise decision in retrospect.

We also decided to test in both Ancestry DNA and in Family Tree DNA. Initially our decision to do so was to ensure we maximised our chances of finding matches. As it turned out we found most of our matches in Ancestry DNA but most of the analysis was done in Family Tree DNA, and in Gedmatch with a  little analysis using Kitty Cooper’s Tools. I cannot emphasise enough that it is one thing to find a match in AncestryDNA but it is more interesting to download Ancestry’s raw data to, say, Gedmatch and discover just where that match occurs.

I’ve found Family Trees are essential in helping to confirm matches. I have had a couple of excellent matches because good family trees on both sides of the match made it easy to find the match back some six generations in a couple of instances. So keeping trees up to date as I discover more matches has been a challenge for my genealogy software.

All in all, two years down the track I am hooked. The challenge now is, as it was in the beginning, to manage my DNA financial budget. To be proactive about thinking where to next rather than rely on chance of finding a DNA test that is one that I want. Soon that will come I think as it seems that the DNA databases are reaching a critical mass.

So yes, the time has come to review what we have achieved so far and where we should go next.