Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Using DNA Testing In Genealogy

I just read a very interesting genealogy article on the BBC website, entitled "How I Traced My Ancestry Back To The Stone Age." Now, the headline was obviously designed to pique the interest of any genealogist, although as it turned out it was a little misleading. 

The article was written by a genealogist who had been researching her Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry for years. Due to the changes that have occurred in Europe over the years in terms of countries' borders changing, she found it very difficult to determine exactly where her ancestors came from. This led her to investigate DNA testing, which is the main focus of the article.

The article explains how there are companies who will, for a fee, take a sample of your DNA, and test it using a process known as genotyping. By comparing DNA with a database of known reference populations these companies can determine where in the world your ancestors were most likely to have come from. As an example, a huge percentage of the inhabitants of the Orkney Islands have common DNA with Scandinavians, due to the invasion and habitation of those islands by the Vikings from around the ninth century.

The results of the author's DNA test confirmed her European Jewish heritage, and pinpointed her ancestry to modern day Russia, Poland, and Belarus.There were also links to the Iberian Peninsula fifteen thousand years ago. Amazingly, the test could also prove that the author had Neanderthal DNA, hence the title of the article.

It appears that this technology can be another method used by genealogists to unravel their family history. It is, of course, impossible to trace your family tree back to the Stone Age, but it is nevertheless fascinating and useful to have an idea of where your distant ancestors came from. In addition, genome research is expected to become much more advanced in the next few years, meaning that ancestry can be accurately pinpointed to very specific locations, such as an individual village.

Exciting times ahead...

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