I Wear Tight Genes

Wherein I attempt to relate the trials and tribulations of tracking down information on people who are dead, but bear some resemblance to me...when they were alive.

Friday, September 07, 2007

DNA Testing Now Available


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Originally uploaded by Thomas.Valley
In the past, when you want your DNA tested, you could find a lab to test it, and give you a paternity or maternity match up, as long as they had also tested a relatively close relative. It was typically used to prove that a father was a father or a mother was a mother. Recently, companies have started gathering data for genealogical relationships.

One such company was recently purchased by Ancestry.com, and they hope to combine the massive amounts of data already available online with the approximately 600,000 DNA samples already tested.

If you're even remotely interested in the world's greatest game (genealogy), you should be able to understand how excited over this I am. Now, Ancestry's even opened the sampling doors in a beta test of sorts. They'll send you a testing kit, you swab the inside of your mouth and send it back. After a few weeks, you get an email with your results, and another email every time someone else enters the database as a match.

For me, this could really break down some barriers. I've got an adopted great-grandfather, and an adopted grandmother. While both of them have identified with their adoptive families their entire life, and no one would question their familial relationship, I can't help but be curious about the biology involved. Particularly in my great-grandfather's case, this would answer the question for us if his mother had given him up for adoption just to adopt him back into the family legitimately.

For some of these questions, we can answer them through getting a bunch of cousins to get tested. At 200.00 a pop, however, it's going to be a lot to ask. My aunt has suggested we just take a road trip to Green-Wood Cemetery and do some grisly exhumation. While that would certainly get to the root of the matter expediently, that would probably raise eyebrows and hackles all through the family.

As with all genealogy, the meaning of the search and the addiction to the hunt are focused on identifying ourselves in this world and its history. Can I really be satisfied with just telling people I'm an average American "mutt" heritage? Is there not some intrinsic value in knowing the trials and work and hardship through which your ancestors lived to get you where you are today?

As soon as I can rationalize taking the money out of my budget, I'm getting tested. If you do, let me know -- we're probably 16th cousins.

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