I’ve talked about this in an earlier post, here before we took our DNA tests so pretend you haven’t heard it all already.
It was many, many years ago when Mike became interested in genealogy and started charting his family tree. Nowadays almost everything he needs for research is available on the internet and he spends hours at the computer searching records and adding relatives to our family trees.
Back in the day I was a lot more involved. We’d book a microfiche reader down at the local library, trawl through records of births marriages and deaths and note information down on paper – imagine that! Nothing was centralised. We visited the National Records office in London and travelled to libraries close to where our ancestors lived to research their archives.
It wasn’t exactly Who Do You Think You Are? stuff with white gloves, Thomas Cromwell’s ledgers and parchment scrolls but it felt like proper research to me. Once it became a matter of pressing a few buttons on a keyboard I lost interest.
When DNA testing was first mentioned in relation to genealogy and family trees I couldn’t see how the two things linked. Mind you, my DNA knowledge consisted of two things.
1. You inherit some from your parents
2 You shouldn’t leave any behind at a crime scene.
Stuck for something to buy Mike last Christmas I decided to buy him a DNA testing kit. I don’t think he was really interested but I was curious. Perhaps I should’ve treated myself instead. He didn’t rush to get the test done but eventually he got around to swabbing his cheek, putting it in a test tube and posting it off. We had no idea what to expect.
A few weeks later your DNA has been analysed. You are added to a database with other people who have tested and up pops a list of hundreds of people around the world with whom you share some of your DNA – your relatives. These are your ‘shared matches’ and the more DNA you share with another person the closer the relationship is assumed to be. Mike’s closest match was a cousin who we already know.
His DNA is now languishing on the database and we haven’t pursued it but wow! it opened up a load of possibilities for me.
This is really where my story starts.
I’ll just to take you back to family trees for a minute. Traditionally you would research your immediate family line as far back as you can go. My mum: her mum and dad (my grandmother and grandfather): their mum and dad (my two great grandmothers and two great grandfathers) and so on – are you with me?
My mum’s mum (my grandmother) – Alice was illegitimate. We have no idea who her father might have been so we can’t take her paternal line any further back. I’ve always assumed we will never know his identity.
Here is where the DNA comes in. I took a test. I have a list of my DNA matches (my relatives) and now the hard work begins. Are some of these people related to the unknown great grandad?