Genetic Genealogy



It is now known that genetic markers are passed down from generation to generation, and that our ancestors left clues in our DNA that can determine geographical origins. DNA testing laboratories, by comparing our markers to those of already established databases, can also unlock many of our deep ancestral origins. DNA testing has proven to be a valuable genealogical research tool, and can provide a window into a person’s genetic past.

By testing the Y-DNA the origin of the male line can determined. The Y-DNA checks the paternal line only, with no influence of any females along that line. Females do not receive the Y-DNA, and therefore females cannot be tested for the paternal line. Females, wanting to research their paternal line, would need to have a brother or a male relative from that line to be tested. By testing the mtDNA, males and females can determine the origin of their maternal line. The mtDNA strictly checks the maternal line, with no influence of any males along that line. Both males and females receive the mtDNA from the mother.

The history of our nation is one of immigration. Early on, from the European continent, and then from Africa (slaves), immigrants came. And as our national borders expanded south and west our national ethnic makeup grew as well. The inclusion of the Hispanic residents who lived in our conquered lands, as well as those individuals who were members of the hundreds of Native American Indian tribes that preceded us, added much to the genetic equation. 

Then, starting with the Great War, followed by World War Two, the Korean War and Viet Nam, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines brought many thousands of “war brides” back to this country.

We have, over time, melded into a people called Americans. We have our own culture, one that is increasingly imitated around the word, sometimes vilified by our enemies. Most of us are proud of our roots. We point with pride at the hardships our forefathers endured when they arrived from England, Germany, Scandinavia, Scotland and Ulster in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Our black fellow-citizens are proud of their heritage as well, and our Native American brothers and sisters celebrate the fact that their ancestors managed to survive their conquerors’ efforts to eradicate them as a people.

Many of our fellow citizens with Asiatic origins are the result of the aforementioned war brides, yet thousands of  Chinese emigrated from mainland China in the 1700s and 1800s to work on the early railroads and in the gold mines of the West. Waves of Filipino immigrants arrived after the Spanish-American War, and again after WW2. Japanese arrived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as laborers on the pineapple and sugarcane plantations in Hawaii, and on the truck farms in California. Vietnamese refugees came with the end of the Viet Nam war, and Mexicans and Central Americans cross our southern borders today almost at will. The result, as we start the twenty-first century, is that  we have evolved into a nation of many ethnic backgrounds, with a population that can no longer—for the most part—be identified as being derived from a single culture.

Some of us—as a result of all of the above—do not know for certain where our genetic roots originated, or how they evolved. Have you ever wondered about the true make up of your genetic history? One of our Erwin “cousins” in Arizona found that her mother was seven percent Native American. Further testing would have determined the actual tribe.

Many black individuals are finding that they have varying degrees of European DNA markers in their blood as a result of the degradation of slavery in the South. On the other hand, some “white folks” are finding that they have had, somewhere along the line, an infusion of African DNA markers in their genetic heritage as well. A recent story of one of our United States Presidents, and his black descendants, is a case in point. Many of us, whose ancestors were part of the great migration westward in the 1700s and 1800s, have Native American blood in our veins.

Today there are several groups doing DNA testing to study  genealogical evidence. It is a simple and painless process, and the cost is not prohibitive. Basic DNA tests range from about $100 to $225 for males and $130 to $190 for females.  When one orders a survey a DNA test kit is sent. Using the kit is fairly simple. One is instructed to scrape the inside of the cheek for thirty seconds with a swab, and then do it again the next day,  then return the kit. Testing time varies with the level of test that was ordered.   

One of the more active firms is Family Tree DNA. It was  created five years ago by Bennett Greenspan of Houston, and is now the world’s largest DNA company in the new field of genetic genealogy. Greenspan used DNA testing to confirm that a possible relative in South America was part of his family tree, and decided that there might be a market for a testing service that catered to genealogists. More information can be found at their web site,, or by calling 559-442-6383.                                                                                                                                       »»»