The Wonders of DNA


My family has been doing family history for 150 years. Do I really need a DNA test? ~ LoAnne

Dear LoAnne,

If you are blessed to have a well-researched, extensive family tree, constructed on a solid foundation of detailed documentation, you may wonder what more you could possibly learn about your ancestry through an analysis of your DNA. But whether you have been trying to uncover your family history for decades or have only recently started searching for your roots, there are many delightful aspects of your distant and more recent ancestral past that can be recovered only through your DNA. We are tempted to say that DNA takes over where your paper trail ends, and that is certainly true about our distant ancestors.

But DNA can both confirm and unveil recent family relationships as well, including close and distant cousins with common ancestors back as far as 300 years ago. Sometimes, DNA may reveal unknown siblings, aunts, and uncles, and even previously unknown biological parents and grandparents, making it an ideal tool for adoptees searching for their biological roots. DNA is also often the only way that we can prove or disprove family relationships and family myths, such as whether two siblings are actually related or whether or not that proverbial Native American great-grandmother that so many Americans ardently believe resides among the not-so-distant branches of their family tree really existed. Once thought of as the proverbial “handmaiden” of genealogy, genetics has emerged in the last few years–especially with developments in analyzing one’s autosomal DNA (and more about that in a minute)–as the co-equal partner in any sophisticated quest to find out as much as one possibly can about the shape and size and even color of the roots and branches on one’s family tree. In other words, if you really —> Read More