Attendees of the “DNA for Genealogists” workshop presented by the Fort Worth Genealogical Society may have felt they were back in high school biology class. Guest speaker Jane Buck, whose background is biology, presented information on the science behind DNA testing to show how it applies to genealogy.
The first part of Buck’s presentation was, “What is genetic genealogy and what can it do for you?” She presented a number of scientific definitions and several uses for genetic testing in genealogy research.
Buck said the definition of genetics is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms. She said genetic genealogy is the application of genetics to traditional genealogy that can provide great return on investment. It has grown in popularity since Family Tree DNA was founded in 2000.
“Although DNA testing is not considered a small expense, the time, money, and energy it can save make it an investment where the initial cost of the test is outweighed by dividends,” she said. “Genetic genealogy can be useful to beginners, seasoned genealogists, and professionals, and it is a great way to get younger generations engaged in family history research.”
She explained that genetic genealogy is another tool for researchers to use with other available resources. Like any research tool, it has advantages and limitations.
“Genetic genealogy can yield answers to different types of genealogical questions,” she said, “but the amount of information and level of detail it provides is entirely dependent upon the existence of comparative data, meaning the number of matches a person has.”
The results of a DNA test can rarely be used for genealogy in the absence of an existing framework of information. If you don’t have contacts to share your findings with or if you don’t have other information to put together with your test results, the results by themselves don’t always mean much.”
Why people take DNA tests
- Trace the origin of a surname
- Find out if the family stories were true (i.e. Is there really Native American ancestry?)
- Follow the ancient migrations of ancestors
- Determine percent breakdown of ethnic makeup
- Discover biological ancestry (if adopted or donor-conceived)
- Confirm suspected family
- Use as evidence to join SAR, Mayflower Society and some others (DAR still does not allow)
- Contribute directly to research
- Become part of a growing genetic genealogy community
- Find relatives who actually want to listen
Family Tree DNA was founded in 2000 and was the first company to develop commercial applications for genetic genealogy. Jane Buck began her genealogy hobby in 2005 and in 2010 joined Family Tree DNA to lead their customer service department. While Buck is no longer with the company and now works in environmental consulting, she still speaks to groups on behalf of Family Tree DNA.
Founded in 1957, the Fort Worth Genealogical Society is a non-profit, educational corporation created to foster and maintain interest in genealogy among citizens of Tarrant County, Texas and surrounding areas. The Society publishes and distributes genealogical and historical information to the public and assists the Fort Worth Library in the acquisition of genealogical and historical research material.
Through monthly meetings and other activities, the Society encourages the exchange of ideas and helps its members to develop efficient methods for genealogical and historical research.
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