In the September 2014 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, editors Melinde Lutz Bryne and Thomas W. Jones conceded that while traditional genealogists have worked with sources and documents that have been available for decades, a new resource for research has been evolving in the past decade – DNA.
Over the past few years, NGSQ has been steadily publishing articles that use DNA AND traditional genealogy methods to show relationships. They even withheld publication of an article earlier this year that indicated DNA evidence was needed to support the author’s conclusion.
In addition this year, the Board of Certified Genealogists revamped their Genealogy Standards with a 50th Anniversary Edition. Several standards were rewritten to include DNA and genetic evidence as viable methods of meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard. DNA research and genetic genealogy are ready to shake up the field of traditional genealogy in the twenty-first century.
So how does DNA research work with traditional genealogy? Generally, they work side by side and help fill in the gaps when the other is lacking. Currently there are three major types of DNA tests available, and each provides a different kind of information for genealogists. All three types can be used with traditional genealogy to solve brick walls or to confirm probable relationships when the paper trail is weak.
Three Major Types of DNA
- Y-DNA is used to trace the paternal line – the father’s father’s father’s family. A genealogist might have an excellent paper trail that follows this line for several generations and then…nothing. Migrations of families can cause havoc with paper trails, especially with common surnames. Using Y-DNA can help separate one family of Joneses from another. This type of DNA typically has few mutations and can be used to trace many generations back in time.
- Autosomal DNA
is used to test all 22 chromosome pairs, as well as the X chromosome (in some
cases). When trying to find a closer relationship, within 5-7 generations,
autosomal DNA is the best choice. This type of DNA test has been used
effectively to solve adoption puzzles or to confirm closer family
relationships. However, after 5-7 generations, cousins tend to fall off the
genetic family tree. This is due to the process of gene recombination.
- Mitochondrial DNA is used to trace the maternal line – the mother’s mother’s mother’s family. In research where a women’s maiden name is unknown, mitochondrial DNA can be an effective tool. In 2013, the body of Richard III, found under a car park in Leicester, was identified using this type of DNA. Like Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA has few mutations, and in the case of Richard III, can be used to trace lineages hundreds of years.
by Deborah Sweeney © 2014, Genealogists.com. All rights reserved
 Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones, “Genealogical Scholarship and DNA Test Results,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 102 (September 2014): Editors’ Corner.
click to go to our respective social media site
Be sure to subscribe to the Genealogists.com blog above to automatically receive our next article.