A look at aprilstechtips‘ genealogy technology toolbox:
I came across a link to look up my ancestors a couple of days ago and since then I have been HOOKED! A few decades ago when I wanted to start a genealogy project it was so difficult I gave up, but today’s technology makes genealogy research so easy! Here’s some places to get started:
In 1998, a group of scientists employed DNA analysis to prove that descendants of United States President Thomas Jefferson and descendants of Jefferson’s slave, Sally Hemings, shared a bloodline. That discovery irrevocably changed genealogy. Hard science could finally (dis)prove centuries-old oral history, history that had previously been dismissed because of a lack of documentary evidence.
Since that moment in 1998, countless family historians have utilized Y-chromosome DNA data to pinpoint paternal origins. Others have analyzed mitochondrial DNA to trace the migrations of their maternal line.
Now the Silicon Valley-based, Google-backed 23andMe uses autosomal DNA to trace all of one’s ancestral lines, not just the direct male or the direct female line. 23andMe’s Relative Finder feature even allows one to communicate with relatives from all of these ancestral lines.
For researchers of African descent 23andMe has been dubbed a “gamechanger,” as it pulls back the weighty curtain of history to reveal the identities of otherwise unknown Caucasian forebears and the Old World sources of African ancestry. Since joining 23andMe over one year ago, a single DNA sample has connected me to two Nigerian relatives and several others in the British Isles, continental Europe, and Australia - a true feat for someone whose known ancestors have been on American soil since the 17th century.
While I have used the service to verify known ancestry and discover unknown ancestors, these discoveries required my new found relatives to share and communicate. Sadly, a contingent of 23andMe customers feels overwhelmed by the deluge of data and needlessly fears that giving any information useful for tracing one’s ancestry may yield disastrous consequences.
To help new customers overcome their fears and maximize the opportunities presented by 23andMe, I will run a series of explanatory posts called “The 23andMe Chronicles.” Stay tuned…
In the meantime (until December 27, 2011), feel free to join 23andMe with a $23 discount from yours truly: http://www.23andMe.com/a/ff1/v4q3j
Qualifying individuals of African descent may want to sign up for 23andMe’s Roots into the Future, a health initiative that provides free genetic testing.
In 2006, Oxford Ancestors, a United Kingdom-based personal genomics company, decided to test a hypothesis that all gentlemen of British origin with the surname Christmas descended from a single direct male line ancestor, playfully dubbed Father Christmas. After testing the Y-chromosomes of about a dozen Christmas men (half hailing fom England’s Surrey County with the other half originating from Sussex and Essex counties), Oxford Ancestors debunked their own hypothesis. All of the Christmas men from Surrey County appear to have descended from a single male ancestor while all of the men tested in Sussex and Essex counties share a different Christmas ancestor. Of course, Oxford Ancestors discontinued the project.
Fast forward to 2011. An American gentleman with the surname Christmas, a carrier of the genealogy-enthusiast trait, seeks to revive the project. Thankfully, a Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) project administrator created such a project some time ago. And FTDNA has a great sale on Y-chromosome DNA testing from now until December 31, 2011, making now an excellent time to participate and help sort out the Christmas family lines.
The project is actually a part of the Christopher DNA Project (http://www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/christopher/results); at least two Christmases (including yours truly) are currently participating. Another Christmas has already tested and has agreed to join the project as well.
I encourage as many Christmas gentlemen as possible to participate in the Christmas Y-chromosome DNA project. Anyone who is interested should look at ordering Family Tree DNA’s Y-DNA 37-marker or Y-DNA 67-marker test (http://www.familytreedna.com/y-dna-compare.aspx). If you have questions, feel free to contact me.