My son and I had a discussion awhile back that centered around our lack of knowledge about our family tree. Outside of what we had heard from parents and grandparents the past was foggy, to say the least. A few years ago we had done a DNA study thru 23 And Me which yielded some expected and unexpected results. For example, in addition to the expected result that I was Dutch and Italian, it also told me I was 2% Western Asian/North African and 1% Jewish! Some people are hesitant to submit their DNA for testing, afraid that it could be used improperly to profile them, or that it may uncover some defect that they would prefer to remain ignorant of. I was personally not worried about that and considered the information useful regardless of what it uncovered. The amount of information you receive is impressive. I’m not sure how accurate some of the more obscure markers are, for example, It told me that I have a genetic muscle composition that is common in elite athletes. My muscle cells are able to produce a specific protein that is supposed to make them tire less easy. I don’t feel I’m an elite athlete, but it’s nice to hear that supposedly I have the DNA for it.
After the DNA analysis from myself, my wife, and my son; (My daughter tried but she did not have enough DNA in her saliva sample to do the testing, which we found out later is not that uncommon – especially in people who drink a lot of water!) The results produced a good building block for my ancestory research.
I signed up for a trial subscription to Ancestry.com to start my investigation. The trial subscription is good for two weeks, which should give me enough time to build a basic family tree. The site was easy to use; just put in a name and search. It returned a number of entries about the name I entered. You need to review these because some are not accurate. Once you have a few pieces of information saved, Ancestory will usually suggest other relatives via a small green leaf in the person’s box in the family tree. From here I kept working my way backward.
I encountered a dead end with some relatives after going back 2 or 3 generations, but was able to go back up to 5 generations for one ancestor. Not surprisingly, the further you go back the less information is available, and the details are usually vague since you are dealing with hand written documents. Anyway, after a week of digging I was able to put together a fairly comprehensive family tree.
The results were interesting to say the least. I was impressed that the DNA information generally matched what I found in my ancestry. My great grandparents on my mother’s side were from Friesland, Netherlands and Cosenza, Italy; just what my DNA indicated. My wife’s relatives were from the Netherlands and Poland which also matched her DNA profile. Generally my ancestors immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, coming in via Ellis Island like so many others did during that time. Some stayed on the East Coast, while others moved to the Midwest. I really enjoyed the process of building the family tree and would recommend it to anyone who does not know much about their ancestors.
It’s sad that I know so little about many of my relatives. What did they do for a living? What dreams did they have? What stories could they tell? This has been lost with time because it was not written down and passed along. It’s inspired me to get more information from my oldest living relatives to collect some of these ‘stories’ that will be lost when they are gone.