I am glad to see the sea between genealogist who use DNA as a valuable tool and strict paper genealogists is drying up. Paper genealogy got me back to the early 1800s on a few of my lines. For black Americans that is pretty far back.
I have always been a lover of stories, fiction, nonfiction, science fiction etc… . In my mid-20s I realized that I had no family stories of my own. Most of my friends had and conveyed them without even knowing they were doing so. My many siblings and I could only say that our mom was from Mississippi and still had family in Mississippi. I grew up not knowing my dad, so that was even more stories unrelayed.
Science fiction for a good decade was my fiction reading of choice. I have been fascinated by science, itself, but some smart science fiction that dealt with the biology of humans, human existence, and genetics made science more understandable for me. So when I heard of people using DNA in assisting with genealogy (history and science combined), I was excited. Problem was that initial tests were $1000 or more. Me producing that much money for a test would have been a work of fiction, for real.
In 2011 DNA testing became more affordable and the prices have since dropped. Therefore, I have gotten my autosomal DNA tested at three companies, five of my sisters’ austosomal tested at one, one brother’s tested at two, had mybrother’s and my mitochondrial DNA tested at two, and my brother’s paternal (in essence, my father’s) paternal Y-DNA tested at two. Yes, you can call me a DNA junkie.
What is it that I hope to learn and how does it tie into genealogy—my story
Although the paper trail, documentation, and oral history have guided me back further than most people expected I could go, many lines still have gaps. Even those lines that go back to the early 1800s have a chance of getting back to the 1700s or 1600s or beyond. One of my hopes is that DNA will help me bridge the gaps and blaze a trail as far back as I can go.
Before testing, the certainties that I could tell you about my family was that we were mainly from Mississippi, we were mainly of African descent, we were mainly of slave descent, and, because of the nature of slavery, we probably had some European blood. After testing I can tell you that many of my DNA matches are mainly from North Carolina, therefore my family was probably there before being enslaved in Mississippi, we have matches to Nigeria and Ghana, my DNA matches seven modern-day African areas (with Cameroon,/Congo, C’ote d’Ivoire/Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria being the top regions), we range from 13% to 25% European and my DNA matches six European areas, one suspected black ancestor successfully made it to Canada before the end of slavery, two suspected European ancestors were brought over as slaves (one English and one Irish), and my father’s father’s father’s father’s line leads to Belgium. Now, some of this knowledge came from collaborating with my DNA matches on what they knew of their own history. Without the DNA, I would not have been led to these clues.
Another important thing that I am getting from DNA genealogy is proof that oral history or written documents cannot provide. DNA autocorrects the mistakes or “mis-leads” that have been left from the past. It does not give instant answers, afterall it is a tool that you have to work hard at. It challenges what you have been told or even what you have seen some times. This can be quite scary for some. But it is so exhilarating when you actually confirm that you were on the right track with your paper trail and in your oral history.
For me, knowing that an ancestor passed down a piece of themself that made me is something more powerful than science or belief. It is mystical and mesmerizing. It pushes me on with my genealogy because I want to discover who they were, every good, bad, or ugly detail.
All of my siblings only share one parent with me. Below is exactly what segments on the chromosome that we match.