Friday, June 26, 2009

Genetic Genealogy

After hitting a brick wall in the ancestral search for the lineage of
WT's great-great-great-grandfather, Andrew, we submitted a
sample of his DNA to Family Tree DNA. When the results were
obtained, they were given over to his surname project. Compared to
over one hundred other DNA samples, from the same surname, we
were able to rule out several possible lineages. It was also amazing
to see what his geographic ancestral origins were. Hopefully, as
more participate in the project, we will be able to make an exact
match and trace Grandpa Andrew's family tree back to Ireland or

DNA testing can show if two people are related, suggested geographic
origins, if you are of African, Jewish, Native American heritage, or
even if you match Thomas Jefferson. In the field of genetic genealogy,
testing can help, through the surname projects, find documents for
that elusive ancester, his homeland, or if you are related to another
family with the same surname.

Family Tree DNA is a commercial genetic genealogy company based
in Houston, Texas with its partner laboratory, Arizona Research
Labs, housed at the University of Arizona. They offers analysis of
YDNA, mtDNA, and autosomal DNA to individuals for genealogical
purposes based on DNA samples collected using a cheek swab
method with a kit. All samples once submitted are stored at Arizona
Research Labs for future testing and archiving of DNA samples
collected from family members. In February 2009, Family Tree
DNA announced that they, in partnership with the National
Geographic Genographic Project, have tested over 500,000 kits.

My sister and I recently submitted our own DNA samples to Family
Tree DNA, just to see if we have a match.


  1. I love the idea of that. I've gotten about 4 generations back in our family tree but then I get stuck. I'm not willing to pay to be a part of Legacy tho, so I guess it's my fault. Maybe I'll do the cheek thing expensive was it?

  2. rxBambi, you can click on the website, in the body of my post for all the details.

  3. How fascinating! I saw a 20/20 show on this last year and how great! I have my Mother's family pretty far back and my Dad's mother's side but the O'Gwynn's are a different matter!Linda, the girl I wrote about who came on my blog has given me some great information on her Grandfather's branch! I think I'd like to do this also though!

  4. That's awesome. Bet you're hanging in there for some more news.

    My favourite TV shows are 'Find My Family' and 'Who Do You Think You Are?'.

  5. Great concept.

    I fear I might find out that all my ancestors wore jackets that had arms that fastened in the back. :)


  6. That's really fascinating. It will be so interesting to see how far back you will be able to go.

  7. What an exciting project for your family to trace their origins. We should all keep better records to pass on to our grandchildren, including health history, I might add.

  8. Great information, Willow. I'll definitely check out their site. My great grandmother on my dad's side always told her family that her grandmother was of English origins but we were never able to prove it. I think there might be some truth to it, as my dad's family lived in an area of Portugal where they cultivated grapevines used in the production of Port Wine, and in those times the English had settled along the river Douro to explore the production.
    I wonder if a DNA test would help us prove it...

  9. What a timely post, willow. Genealogy is one of the more popular subjects in the UK nowadays and recently programmes like the BBC 'Who Do You Think You Are?' have gone down very well with audiences. You can view them on the bbc website, in the iplayer section.

    So, your husband's ancestry can be rooted back to either Scotland or Ireland? How fascinating! Has he ever been to the Highlands? I think it's time for you to invest in a kilt for Christmas :-). I hear they're coming back into fashion.

    Thanks for such an informative post.

    Greetings from London.

  10. My dad's family goes back to the year 862. There is extensive writing about the family and this was all done for two books back in the 1960's. Our family name was one of the first in the DNA project. Come to find out there is an Irish branch that doesn't match up.

    I have had a blast doing the other names in the family and have not been disappointed yet in finding something of great interest.

  11. hi willow, i'm with the "buddhist conservative" in being a tad concerned about what i'd find out, but the lure of unpacking the past like this is really really strong. i'm going to wander over to their site and see what i can see! steven

  12. Very interesting. I did not know of this, Willow. Wonder how far back I can go?

  13. interesting. will have to follow the link as i wonder how it works, how far back they have the dna and what not. my parents did their family tree a while back...pretty funny actually.

  14. That is just amazing. My mother traced our lines back to Davy Crocket and way back beyond. I wish she were here to talk with me about it all...

  15. Oh...and I love that picture you used. Reminds me that we are sometimes like ropes, typing knots, hanging on...

  16. Cuban, WT is known to wear a kilt on special occasions. And sometimes even bring out his bagpipes!

  17. Had no idea this was available but with all the tech improvements, should have known. Totally amazing; hope you get the results you want.

  18. I've used DNA testing twice. The first time to find out that my sons are, indeed, identical twins and not fraternal. And the second time to learn my ancestry.

    Since I don't know who my biological father is I was interested to see what would turn up. I was expecting to be nearly all European, but it turns out that I'm 5% Sub-Saharan African and 16% Native American!

  19. Good luck! I've been to the town in Ireland from which my ancestors hail, and the surname still exists in the area.

    A couple of years ago, Premium T. and I were in New Ross, Ireland, and discovered the grave marker of a distant aunt from the 19th C. We knew it was her because the last name -- although spelled differently -- was the same and the maiden name and first and second names aligned with the family tree that we had. It was pretty awesome.

  20. The Cold Spring Labs on Long Island is a center for the study of DNA. Because it has rained almost the whole of June, I went there last week to look around at their exhibits. Very interesting and they have a huge model of the double helix. They also have a genealogy project. for more info

  21. I hope to someday have the time to invest in this project, all consuming I'm sure, like putting together a puzzle...and I can never walk away from that either...

  22. I'm excited! Thomas Jefferson? Wow...but what about Yul Brynner?

  23. Wow. That's seriously cool. I love the idea of being able to find a foolproof way of knowing who your ancesters are. :)

  24. For about a five year period, I did a ton of genealogy research, and did accomplish quite a bit, but sadly, I haven't had time since. I tell myself I tried to do my bit for posterity, and that someone else in the family will have to carry on from where I left off, but this is fascinating--I'm always amazed by DNA and what they can learn from it. Good luck with whatever you find!

  25. Hello Willow,

    As you seem to have photographic material for several of your ancestors it must make the desire greater to lean more. I hope this experiment produces results for you.

  26. Thanks for the link Willow. I'll pass it on to my sister tho she may already know about it. She's traced us back to the late 1500s on our mother's side, mostly English and German. On my father's side we can't get any further back than around the Civil War as he absolutely would not talk about his family. We surmise that there was a serious rift between North and South in the family and they cut all ties.

  27. I would love to send in some DNA...what an interesting project. I hope you share your results here, Willow. It's exciting-a new way to uncover the mystery! <3

  28. I'd love to confirm my heritage, I think I'm a true hodge podge of different nationalities, maybe a true melting pot. Am I right in thinking this test would let me know whether Engish, Irish, Scottish, etc. showed up in my DNA?
    The big question is, is it real expensive?

  29. Family history is such a fascinating subject. I have got a fair way back on my maternal side - not so far on the paternal.

  30. wow, sounds very impressive.

    i will pass this on to someone i know would love to find out more about their ancestors.


  31. Ms. Willow I tried your e address but it came back to me- go to my blog and do that hting because you won the HUFFINGTON complete guide to BLOGGING!YAHOO.

  32. Fascinating -- another interesting avenue to pursue. (Were my father's forebears all horse thieves from Ireland as he so often asserted?)

  33. Oh that is so cool! I'd love to do that, the costs are a little high though....

  34. It's really fascinating - my mum did it too. Science is an endless source of wonder, no?

  35. It's really fascinating - my mum did it too. Science is an endless source of wonder, no?

  36. This is so cool! Please update us on your findings.

  37. My mother always told us our family tree included Winston Churchill. I should have put it to the test!

  38. i am so glad to have found your post on genetic genealogy - i've considered submitting dna samples myself but had not spoken to anyone who had already gone through the experience [in order for me to make an informed decision anyway] - so thanks very much - it's now on my to-do list! have a great day - jenean

  39. Just wanted to stop by again and tell you I have an award for you on my site...

  40. Hi! Willow,
    What a very interesting post about lineages and DNA.
    The photograph is very beautiful
    and intriguing!
    Btw, Thanks, for the link and by chance have you ever watch the Sci-Fi film Gattaca?

    Take care!
    p.s. I'am little bit under the weather...hence, the late post!

  41. Very interesting information. Many years ago an uncle did research on his & my father's family history, but I have not followed up on any of this with today's modern technology. It is something to investigate.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)