Genetic typing is the newest tool for amateur genealogists and one that has been described in this newsletter many times. (Click here to see several.) Now two leading genealogy DNA experts have collaborated on a new book. This week I had a chance to read Trace Your Roots with DNA, written by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner.
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (that is not a typo, she married a man with the same surname as her own maiden name and now uses both names) is well qualified to collaborate on this book. She is the lead researcher for PBS's Ancestors and she did most of the research for PBS's They Came to America. She is the author of In Search of Our Ancestors, Honoring Our Ancestors, and They Came to America. She also is a genealogy researcher for the U.S. Army's Repatriation project to trace families of servicemen killed or missing in action in Korea and Viet Nam. The intent is to develop a DNA-database from relatives' blood samples so that the remains that are now being repatriated can be identified and interred.
Likewise, Ann Turner's DNA and genealogy credentials are also top notch. She is the founder and guide of Rootsweb's popular Genealogy-DNA mailing list where she actively helps thousands of genealogists around the world learn more about the use of DNA within genealogy research. I recently found a short description of Ann's DNA work, complete with a quote that I love:
Ann should get the "Nobel Internet Forum Prize" (if there was such an honor) for her initiative and drive to make this [Genealogy-DNA] forum what it is today.
- Ron Lindsay
For more information on Ann Turner's work, go to http://lists.rootsweb.com/index/other/DNA/GENEALOGY-DNA.html.
Trace Your Roots with DNA starts with a brief introduction to genealogy and genetics fundamentals. The authors explain the types of available testing, what kind of information the tests can provide, how to interpret the results, and how the tests work. The authors also describe how to do all this in a cost-effective manner:
Back in the dark ages of genetic DNA testing -- way back in 2001 or 2002 -- the answer would have been to launch your own study. And depending on your circumstances, that might still be appropriate. But for more and more of us, simply joining an existing project is becoming a viable option.
Genealogists can trace "DNA heirlooms," the two forms of DNA that are passed on in a family from generation to generation. These "heirlooms" include genetic markers on the Y chromosome, passed on by fathers, and mitochondrial DNA, passed on by mothers. Testing one's DNA is simple: swab the inside of your cheek with a device that looks something like a Q-TIP, insert that device into a plastic vial, screw the top on the vial to seal it and then mail it in a pre-addressed envelope. The entire process takes about two minutes plus a bit more time to read the instructions.
Smolenyak and Turner offer clear explanations of DNA and how to use it. DNA typing can tell you if you're related to someone with the same surname, pinpoint a certain ancestor and verify your other research. But, as the authors warn, it could also prove your previous assumptions are wrong or uncover unwanted information, such as that a family member was adopted. Let's face it, our ancestry is whatever the truth is, not what we want it to be. I suspect that DNA testing will disprove a number of long-held beliefs and will shatter some "documented" lines of descent. I expect that most lineage societies will be very interested in DNA research!
The chapters of Trace Your Roots with DNA include:
- If You're New to Genealogy
- Genetic Essentials
- Male Bonding: Y Chromosome
- Maternal Legacy: Mitochondrial DNA
- Around the World: Geographic Origins
- Next of Kin: Close Relationships
- Joining or Running a Project
- Finding Prospects
- Contacting and Courting Participants
- Interpreting and Sharing Results
- What's Next?
The book then ends with three appendices:
- Genealogical Resources
- DNA Testing Companies
If you have been researching your family's history and have encountered some "stone walls," this book may offer some answers. It also can help you verify the information you have found. Finally, Trace Your Roots with DNA will provide an excellent introduction to what many believe will be "the next big thing" in genealogy.
Trace Your Roots with DNA is published by Rodale, Inc. It lists for $14.95 US. It can be ordered directly from Rodale's safe and secure online store at http://www.rodalestore.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10002&storeId=10051&productId=15526&langId=-1&nav_wt=search.
You also can order this 272-page paperback through most any bookstore if you specify ISBN 1-59486-006-8. I also found it listed online on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1594860068/httpwwwrootsc-20/102-3915292-7532130 and at Barnes & Noble's online store at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=vR3KM7KAjk&isbn=1594860068&itm=1. Both sell the book at a discount from list price.