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Welcome!

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And thank you for visiting! My purpose is to help people who may have done a DNA test learn all of the powerful ways they can use it to explore their family history. Disclaimer: I am not a certified Professional Genealogist, simply an experienced and always-learning family researcher with a gift for simplifying complicated concepts to make sense to a casually interested person.

I have spent many years exploring my own history in the British Isles and colonial New England, as well as my wife's Spanish and Polish heritage. I have uncovered fascinating family stories, and had incredible experiences with living relatives. Our family's past has made my present rich indeed, and that is an amazing gift that I'd love to help you unlock.

This blog will feature lots of simple posts on how to make the most of your DNA test in combination with the essential thorough traditional research. We truly live in a "Golden Age" of Genealogy, where our DNA science allows us to relia…

What Do These DNA Results Mean?....

When your test results arrive - YIPPEE! - you will have a lot of information to sort through. And it can be overwhelming! Relax, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that this will be waiting for you later. Understanding the power of this wealth of family history at your fingertips takes time, as does learning to use it to build your "ancestories."
There are typically three categories on your results page - your settings for your account, an estimate of your ethnic makeup (more about that below), and a long list of Shared Matches. Shared Matches is our genealogy gold mine - these are other users in the company's database who match you, sorted from highest match to low confidence matches. Usually they are grouped into some category of possible relationships, but these are mostly generalized predictions beyond immediate family.
A quick recap from my last post; these tests look at specific sections of the autosomal DNA that makes up our 23 chromosomes, and we can inherit s…

Testing, Testing - Turn this Thing On!

If you're reading this, you have probably seen those commercials on TV about the home DNA tests - "learn your ethnic origins". As evidenced by AncestryDNA sales recently eclipsing 10 million kits, interest in learning "where do I come from?" has exploded, while technology offers powerful new tools to help answer that question. So what is DNA testing, how does it work, and why should I do it? Great questions!

You have 23 pairs of chromosomes - 22 pairs of autosomes, and the 23rd is a pair of gender (XY) chromosomes. Chromosomes are made up of genes, which in turn are made up of DNA, which is the molecular basis of heredity - the traits we inherit from our parents, and they from theirs, etc..

Four kinds of DNA are useful in studying inheritance:
• Y chromosome, inherited only by sons from their fathers
• X chromosome, women inherit one from each parent, while males inherit an X from their mother and a Y from their father
• Mitochondrial DNA, passed from a mother …

Getting Started - What Do We Know?

This is exciting! We're about to take your family story and build a solid foundation onto which we will add new discoveries. Gather up what you know, get it organized, and let's go.

Whether our plans include use of DNA evidence or not, the first thing to do is to create a tree that includes all that we know. Especially important information includes BMD - birth, marriage and death records including verified dates and locations. The wonderful free resource at FamilySearch.org can be a fantastic asset in getting started with confidence. You can also build your tree there, and even export it to another website or software. (Note: family trees are stored GEDCOM files and have a standard file format just like images, movies and documents - extension .ged).

Why is building a tree so important? It is extremely likely that you have lots of cousins that you've never met, and some of them may be researching a branch of their family that you have in common. You may learn a lot simpl…

A Sharp Eye and an Open Mind

Before we dive deeply into the past, we need a couple of really important tools at all times. It is exciting to start down the trail into the mists of the pasts to explore our family origins. We may have been told some fascinating story about great-grandpa and a harrowing escape during the war, have Native American heritage, or an adoptee may have heard that his birth mother lived in a small town outside of Houston but moved to Kansas. It is human nature to seek evidence for a belief or a story that we may have held onto (like the one in my family about being descendants of Robin Hood!).

These are important clues to research! But, they are not facts until they have been proven. If we go into our research seeking to validate a story, it taints how we interpret the evidence - to raise its importance if it supports our belief, or ignore it when it doesn't. This is human nature, and it is called bias. We must take great care not to let preconceptions color our research - particularl…

So, Why DO We Do This?

It is an age-old human question to wonder where we come from, and how we got here. Maybe we've inherited some things from elderly relatives, or a grandparent keeps a family tree with a variety of tantalizing mysteries. Maybe you are an adoptee looking to learn your birth origins.

Whatever leads you into this journey, congratulations! For we are living in a "Golden Age of Genealogy". Never before have we had so many powerful tools, from cheap DNA test kits to literally tens of millions of digitized old records in many countries easily searchable on the internet - and the character recognition technology to do so. You can learn more about your family history from the comfort of your own home than has ever been previously possible. And it is possible to make more mistaken assumptions as well.

The most common DNA tests done by tens of millions of people evaluate our autosomal DNA. This allows us to identify common segments on specific chromosomes common to various branches…