Monday, August 7, 2006

Genetic genealogy article - myths or mistakes?

A positive genealogy article was published today in the San Gabriel (CA) Valley Tribune newspaper here. Several local genealogists are quoted about research in general and DNA testing in particular in "Family History Research Gets a Boost" by Pam Wight (published 8/7/06?).

However, there are two particular statements about DNA research made in the article that I disagree with:

Miller predicts that within 10 years, DNA technology will be able to tell people what family line they are related to - before they do any other research.

That is pretty far-fetched - if there is a match on a Y-DNA test, then you can identify a common male ancestor sometime back in the patrilineal line. It doesn't define the exact patrilineal line, only an unknown starting point and at least two guys have the same Y-DNA, even though they may be down different lines from the common ancestor. It's only one "line" out of 16, and it doesn't define anything in the other 15 great-great-grandparent lines. There is still lots of research to do!

DNA helped WAGS member Stephen Yung find new relatives in England while searching for the birthplace of his maternal great-grandfather, Richard Chamberlain. "I wanted to know where in England the family was from; it was a stumbling block," said Yung, 66. Through Civil War military records, Yung narrowed his search to North Cadbury, England.

"There were hundreds of Chamberlains over 500 years," said Yung, who spent two weeks poring over birth, death and marriage certificates in North Cadbury in 2004. "I wrote letters to 20 of them and visited some of them. One agreed to do a DNA test."

"He turned out to be a perfect match, so now I can trace my lineage all the way back to 1535 in North Cadbury, where there are still relatives," he added.

So did Mr. Yung use his own Y-DNA for this test? If he did, then it would help define a patrilineal ancestor, but not a maternal great-grandfather's line. He would have had to use a brother of his mother or a nephew of his mother (through a brother) to get the right Y-DNA. The other issue with Mr. Yung is he hasn't defined his lineage, only a common male ancestor at least 500 years ago.

Perhaps Mr. Yung told the story right but the reporter got it wrong. Or perhaps all of these folks have it wrong and need a DNA lecture from an expert. Megan? Colleen? How will Megan Smolenyak rate this article?

Speaking of Megan, she has a great story about how DNA proved a relationship here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was interviewed and quoted in this article. My research used census, birth, marriage, and death information, especially in the Taunton Archives for the North Cadbury parish and surrounding towns for Chamberlains. The documentation using the birth and marriage lines went back to Richard Chamberlain. He was born in 1535 in North Cadbury. I was asked to participate in a DNA study on the Chamberlains. I used two fully documented male cousins with the Chamberlain and upon my visit to North Cadbury, asked two others there to also participate. The DNA study used 35-markers. A Mass. Chamberlain line already was in the study. The five Chamberlains differed on only one marker and then by only one. I am Stephen Yung. I have over 400 Chamberlains around North Cadbury in my data bases, most of which have been linked to Richard-1535.