DNA testing has become the latest tool for genealogists to supplement historical records especially in the United States where it has become very profitable for the companies concerned. Tests can confirm that participants share a common ancestor. They can also reveal 'non-paternity events' which could be distressing for some. The results provide an 'ancestral signature' which could place an individual within the overall patterns of genetic history which have been compiled relatively recently.
Blood of the Isles
This website provides information on the research used by Brian Sykes to write the book Blood of the Isles : Exploring the genetic roots of our tribal history, Bantam Press, 2006. DNA samples were collected from 10 000 volunteers throughout Britain for The Oxford Genetic Atlas Project.
The samples were used to construct maternal and paternal genetic maps which showed the genetic roots of people in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. These maps are also relevant to the origins of the descendants of the millions of people who emigrated from the British Isles.
Brian Sykes explored the extent to which the ancient Celtic tribes were affected over the centuries by invasions by the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans.
At Wikipedia this article provides some background to investigations into the relationship between genealogy and genetic material as well as comprehensive overall information about the DNA testing. It lists a number of specific DNA-Genealogy mailing lists and discussion forums including those at Genforum and Rootsweb which has a membership of 750 subscribers from around the world.
Wikipedia -The Seven Daughters of Eve
The Seven Daughters of Eve is an earlier book by Brian Sykes about how he used analyses of ancient DNA to genetically link modern humans to prehistoric ancestors and their migrations. Mitochondrial DNA tests trace maternal ancestry into the distant past. Sets of characteristic mutations on the mitochondrial genome can be traced along a person's maternal line to a specific prehistoric woman, called a 'clan mother'.
Sykes identified seven major mitochondrial lineages for modern Europeans. The clan mother of each group in turn shared a common maternal ancestor, the so-called 'Mitochondrial Eve' whose genetic material has been passed down to her offspring for well over 100 000 years. Scientific researchers also have a paternal 'Adam' but his history is not nearly as long.
World Families Network
This searchable database contains a list of about 7000 Surname DNA Projects.
These mostly small groups have conducted genetic genealogy projects which used genealogical DNA tests to trace the link between surnames and male lineage.
Such genetic genealogical projects are heavily dependent on communication via the internet, such as family history forums where paper trail pedigrees can be posted. The World Families Network homepage has many links including FAQs which are most informative about the infinite range of tests available and how to interpret the results.
This webpage by Cyndi Howells lists Surname DNA Studies and Projects. It has links which provide background information as well as a search by surname for Family Tree DNA Surname Projects.
Genetic genealogy is a rapidly growing field and perhaps we should all learn more about it. As individual testing of DNA has become more widely available and more affordable the practice could become mainstream in the future.
Jennifer Burrell: firstname.lastname@example.org