Saturday, November 14, 2020

How I Became a Genetic Genealogist

collage of family photos

Years ago, I embraced the mission of family genealogist, delving into my ancestral past and sharing research with cousins living in many different countries. Over time, I compiled trees for family members and friends, as well as kept my own extensive tree. Happy to help others construct their ancestral history and share my passion, I never charged for time or services. With years of research experience tucked under my belt, I felt confident in my skills as a genealogist. Finding obscure references and connecting the dots found in public records came easily to me. I could build a story from a variety of sources and distill it down into a family history summary.

By 2012 Autosomal DNA had come along and I dived right in, dabbling in genetic testing. Enthusiastically I shared my results and what I had learned at family reunions with the hope that others would also be tested. Within a few years, many of my immediate family and a multitude of cousins had stepped up to the plate, testing at AncestryDNA, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA. I also tested with every major company to ensure my results were entered into all DNA data bases, offering the opportunity to connect with more cousin matches.

I devoured every book I could find on the developing field of genetic genealogy, in an attempt to self-educate myself about DNA testing and its application to ancestral research. I was fascinated by the opportunities this new tool presented. Beginning with my own DNA results, I honed my skills by comparing shared quantities of centimorgans (cMs), evaluating segment lengths, triangulating matches and identifying cousin relationships. I learned how to use various online tools and apps to help simplify the laborious task of clustering similar family lines. It was all so fascinating and exciting! DNA results added an extra dimension to the story, a hidden layer attached to our standard genealogical research practices. I was eager to incorporate genetic testing into my genealogy toolbox!

That opportunity arrived in 2016. Knowing my background with ancestral research, email inquiries began arriving from mystery DNA cousin matches. There were questions from cousins unsure of their parentage, as well as others not related to me, asking for help in unraveling their family secrets. Some unknown parentages lay several generations in the past. I knew that only DNA could unlock the closet door hiding long forgotten skeletons.

collage of family photos


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