FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

I Wear A Seat Belt When Doing Genealogy

I always wear a seat belt.  It makes it harder for aliens to suck me out of the window of my car.

Like most genealogy fans, I’m addicted to researching my lineage and associated families.  The addiction started over a half century ago and if anything has intensified every year since then.

MarvinMartian Many other researchers from around the world with my surname have contacted me over the years hoping to find common ancestry and to share research efforts.  Surprisingly, very few of the folks are related to me prior to the early 1400’s.  We wish we could find a closer tie, but alas, it hasn’t happened so far.

One of my ‘cousins’ has been in contact with me on and off for many years.  He hit a brick wall early in his research and hasn’t been able to topple it even with his most intense efforts.  Finally hoping to find a keyhole that peers into the lineage I’ve traced, I was asked if I’d take a DNA test hoping we’d find enough of a match to at least provide some encouragement in his quest.

Unfortunately, he asked for the DNA test results of an alien.

We waited for weeks before the first set of results arrived.  Opening them, I was relieved to see that the lab agreed that I was alive but was sad that there weren’t many other facts to explore.  About a month later, the rest of the results arrived.  My ‘cousin’ and I may be related, but if so, it is only because we both have two legs.

Intrigued with the concept of genealogical ‘research’ through DNA, I started reading about how to correctly interpret the results of DNA tests.

That may have been a bad choice on my part.  Thus far, I’ve found that I have almost no DNA ties to any other human on record.

I think I’m an alien.

I was born 14 years after my next closest sibling and due to size, coloring and interests have often wondered if I was left on the back step of my parents home and they never got around to telling me.

My oldest brother took my mother to the hospital when I was born because my father wasn’t home at the moment.  He and my mother told me the story many times.  My mother even elaborated on the story noting that the doctor said, “It’s a Boy! He has Red Hair!”, to which my mother replied, “That’s not Red, that’s Rust!”

I’ve always enjoyed that story but now that I’ve spent so much time trying to find DNA ties to other humans, I’m more disposed to believing that I was dropped off at my parents home by aliens.  I’m probably part of a major alien conspiracy that hasn’t been exposed yet.

How are you doing with the results of your DNA tests?  Are you part of the alien conspiracy too or have you been able to use them to prove ties to the humans?

To the other aliens out there, I say, “Aliens Unite!”  We may create a whole new area of research in the fascinating genealogical quest that humans enjoy.

I’m sure they’ll still accept us.  Source documentation may be harder for us, but think of the family stories we’ll have to tell!

See you in the Family History Library or on the Mother Ship.

17 August 2009 Posted by | DNA, Family History | , , , , , | Leave a comment

California Tries to Crack Down on DNA Testing

According to a report on Slashdot today, "California’s Department of Public Health has sent cease-and-desist notices to 13 companies that market genetic testing directly to consumers. (We discussed these services when they launched.) Allegedly, under state law, California residents must submit a doctor’s order tDNAladdero have a genetic test run. It will be interesting to see if the government will actually succeed in putting the genetic genie back in the bottle, given that all you need for testing is a few drops of saliva. The effort closely resembles US government attempts to block export of strong encryption product back in 90s."

Thomas Goetz, has written lively argument against the California ruling for Wired.com.   Read it here.

The DNA testing genie associated with family history research is indeed out of the bottle.   

If I remember correctly, Will Rogers used to tell the Navy how to bring the German subs to the surface during World War II:  "Just heat the oceans and they’ll surface."   He went on to say, "I’m like the government, I just make these statements, I don’t tell you how to implement them."

I say, "Good Luck California".  You’ll have better luck finding enough snow to build a snow fort in Palm Springs in mid-July, than you will in enforcing this stance.

17 June 2008 Posted by | DNA | Leave a comment

Grandpa Left Me What?

Over the past 10 years, I have worked with a doctor who is researching Huntington’s Disease (HD). This terrible malady causes the degradation and eventual failure of neurons in brain cells and almost always ends in death at a fairly early age.

He contacted me because I had traced the descendancy and lineage of my great aunt and her husband. His first contact asked if I had ever observed or exhibited a list of symptoms that he included in his letter. I hadn’t seen them in our branch of the family but did note that the profile of early deaths and other issues were frequently found in my great aunts branch of our family.

This confirmed his suspicions and I was able to put him in contact with several of my extended cousins from that branch. They knew that some members of the family had HD but had no idea of its extent and impact on the entire branch. In fact, it has devastated every family unit in that branch. Now that they know how it affects personalities and actions, they better understand why certain events occurred in the lives of some family members.

The HD gene was introduced into the family by the husband of my great aunt and thus none of the siblings of my great aunt have the problem.

Thinking about the implications of a ‘bad’ gene in my own genetic makeup, I started to document the cause of death of my own ancestors and their families. The results weren’t a total surprise, but the problem was much more prevalent than I would have ever dreamed. My father’s side of the family predominately died of heart diseases and / or heart attacks. My mother’s side of the family either lived long healthy lives or had heart and nervous problems.

When I created a graphical descendancy chart for my 2nd great grandparents and colored each box showing the cause of death, it was instantly apparent that my chance of dying with heart related problems is very high.

Scientists and other researchers have used genealogical data to track the proclivity of diseases in their patients for a number of years. With the now fairly common use of DNA mapping, science is able to predict inherited genetic weaknesses with surprising precision.

If you haven’t taken the time to research and study the cause of death or illnesses in your own ancestral families, you’ll probably want to do it soon. The knowledge could help save your life as you use it to work with your physician to find a lifestyle and preventative treatments that will at least partially mitigate your own genetic weaknesses.

11 March 2008 Posted by | DNA | | Leave a comment