07 July 2011

Molecular Genealogy

Some of you may be wondering what the heck molecular genealogy is, though I'm sure there are lots of you who are already familiar with this concept. I've been trying to broaden my knowledge regarding how DNA works and which tests are the best for the purposes of genealogy research, so I thought this would be a good blog topic.

Molecular genealogy, or genetic genealogy, is the process of applying DNA to your traditional genealogy research. Companies specializing in this process claim that genealogists can break through the various barriers they've encountered through the use of ever-evolving DNA technology.

How do they do this?

By comparing DNA test results to determine which individuals might share a common ancestor. So, you would choose one of the companies performing this type of research, sign up for and submit a DNA test, and allow them to submit your results into their database. By doing this, you might just get lucky and find a match that could help you break through some of those brick walls.

This type of process could be particularly beneficial for individuals who do not know the identity of a parent or grandparent. The downside (at least for some people) is that you would have to allow the research company of your choice to post your DNA results to their compiled database. Personally, I don't know how comfortable I would be doing that, but based on the research I've completed, it appears that a lot of individuals are jumping right in to the molecular genealogy pool.

One database that seems to be quite popular is the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (no, I'm not affiliated with them in any way). According to their website, they already have more than 100,000 DNA samples in their database and the numbers just keep growing.

The thing that I find the most intriguing about their research is that they are working on creating a database for autosomal DNA, which is specifically useful for genealogy research. Autosomal DNA is inherited from ALL of your ancestors, whereas Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA are only useful for specific purposes (Y-DNA is good for surname research, but this testing can only be done by males; mitochondrial DNA is only good for researching your maternal line, but can be done by males and females). The future database will link autosomal DNA to genealogical information, and is expected to be the first of its kind in the world.

It sounds like a lot of people are willing to have their DNA test results included in a massive database, but I'm still on the fence (even though the autosomal DNA database certainly sounds intriguing).

What do you think?

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