Sunday, April 14, 2024

DNA And Family History Research – The Truth About Your Results

March 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Ancestry DNA Testing

A lot of people are under the misconception that DNA testing will reveal their entire family history. I blame it on those cop shows where every case comes to a successful close based on DNA evidence alone and half of a smudged fingerprint. DNA and family history are related to a certain degree, but not as closely as most people think.

For example, by using DNA testing you can determine the ethnic and racial backgrounds that have gone into your own genetic makeup. But unless you also have a DNA sample from Napoleon, you could not just look at your own DNA results and determine that you’re related to him. You would need a sample of his DNA for comparison and even then the most you could tell is that you were descended from Napoleon but you wouldn’t be able to determine along what lines.

So let’s say you’re just beginning to research your family tree and you have no idea where to start. If you perform a DNA test the best you’ll be able to determine is your racial and/or ethnic origin. But that will at least give you a starting point. You can then go online to research that area looking for surnames. If you were to find someone who shares the same surname and after researching you believe the two of you may be related, then another DNA test could be performed and by comparing the results from both of your tests you’d be able to find out if you were related. This test still would not tell you however in what way you were related, simply that you share the similar genetic material.

Using DNA for family history research is helpful in that you can use it to eliminate possibilities but it doesn’t point them out to you. You still have to do the legwork and research the old-fashioned way – visiting libraries, churches, archives, city halls, hospitals, etc. And you still have to talk to people to gather information. But isn’t that the fun part of researching your family history? The exchanging of family stories and legends is what makes it so interesting.

Think about it. The reason you’re researching your family history is usually because you’re interested in the history, the special events and little stories that make your family unique. How much fun would it be if all you had to do to find out Napoleon was you great-great-great-great-grandfather was to swab out your mouth and be done with it? And even if it did work like that, if you’re a true history buff you’d still want to do the legwork and research to find out all the little details and juicy bits of family gossip. Using DNA for family history research should only be one tiny step of the process. Use it to verify information when necessary but don’t expect miracles. Even those cops have to do a little legwork before they wrap it all up in a bow and identify the murderer by the DNA he left on a cigarette butt.


2 Responses to “DNA And Family History Research – The Truth About Your Results”
  1. Ruth says:

    I want to find my father and also how much he lied. I am supposed to be 1/2 Native American and would like to know. I do, however, have an extra bone in my spine and they told me it is a trait Native Americans have. Thank you
    Ruth Burns

  2. sphek says:

    We natives have the same number of bones as other humans have. Educate yourself for pity’s sake! We aren’t freaks of nature. We don’t howl at the moon and we do not.have princesses

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