Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Genealogy and DNA 2

Whenever I start to look at a new subject my first port of call is usually Google, actually any search engine will do, but I tend to use Google. Such a search for "genealogy DNA" took me to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), and to their forum DNA-NEWBIE. Both are free to join, the objects of  ISOGG include education of which the forum is part.

It must be said that the name of the forum somewhat belies its content. As a newbie, I was looking for simple answers to basics questions, and too often these answers went over my head, although now and again punctuated by a ray of light! Nevertheless I do recommend both, and by sticking with the forum I did pick up much, even if I did have to use Google for terms which I did not fully understand.

Through the forum I first came across autosomal DNA (auDNA) which is found in the 22 chromosones which, unlike the 23rd, do not contain the sex determining ones. This DNA contains a mixture of auDNA of both the father and mother, and as such is available for both male and female testing. I suggest a visit to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation to see a video of the four types of DNA.

It would seem that there are two main companies involved in auDNA testing 23andme and FT-DNA's Family Finder although at the time of writing may be moving in this direction. Reading between the lines of the DNA-NEWBIE forum, I gained the impression that 23andme is probably more concerned with inherited illnesses rather than genealogy. As a result many of those tested keep their results private.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed from mother to daughter, but is present in both sexes, so whilst a male can follow his paternal and maternal lines back, a female can only follow her maternal line. Because of the (western) norm of a daughter taking her father's surname, there is no continuity in surnames as there is in the male Y-DNA line. I will not be going further into the mtDNA, nor the auDNA, at the moment, but who knows where I am going!

I was also fortunate to buy a copy of "Family History in the Genes" by Chris Pomery, published by the National Archives 2007. Unfortunately this is now out of print, but currently have 6 used copies available. Hopefully an updated version will be available in the future.

One recommendation is common to all sources, that is to join a DNA surname society for the name being researched. Not only does that usually mean a reasonable discount on the testing costs, but, perhaps more importantly, a depth of knowledge on the surname in question, and easily accessible lists of members with the same surname and comparative DNA results. Whilst it is possible to make your results private, I can see no point in so doing; surely the whole point is to see to whom you may be connected.

© Ron Ferguson 2012