Shannon’s great-grandfather Combs and family in 1923 (from left): James, Everett, Zelma (standing on chair), Albert, Everett Jr. (the baby), Sylvia and Paul.
The last eight months have been an absolute roller coaster ride for me in the world of genetic genealogy. In one of my earlier posts, I talked about why my dad is participating in a name study, and the disappointments with the company going under and losing the sample. I’m happy to report that the company that took over has done the testing and we have the first round of results.
It’s far from over, but I thought I’d share with you the process in case anyone out there is thinking about delving into the genetic testing arena. Over the next several posts, I hope to give you a blow-by-blow account of how my family testing goes.
Before you go jumping into the gene pool with both feet, you need to have a basic understanding of the field. I took many genetics courses in college, so I may be ahead of many people with the lingo. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t completely lost at some points when I was looking at the raw data from my dad’s test: Great, I have all these numbers and letters—now what do I do with it?
Having a grasp of the basic terminology will help you to understand your results better, and also allow you to explain them to other members of you family. I’m sure there are many people out there whose eyes glaze over when you start spouting genealogy at them; imagine the comatose looks when you throw in genetic acronyms and science-speak.
Get started by reading and researching everything you can on genetic genealogy. A section of Family Tree Magazine‘s website is devoted to DNA genealogy testing articles. Books, wikis and blogs have all the definitions and beginning information you need to understand what you are getting into. If you haven’t already, pick up Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner. It gives a good basis of terms and also goes through the testing that was available at publication in 2004.
If you enjoy reading blogs, I suggest you check out the Genetic Genealogist by Blaine Bettinger. He has resource lists and articles, posts updates on the industry, and teaches the reader what they need to know about this industry. Finally, go check out the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG). Its wiki is phenomenal, and if you find the genetic bug has bitten you, consider joining this non-commercial non-profit organization.
As previously stated, my dad is participating in a Y-DNA name study though the Combs-Coombs etc. Research Group. Y-DNA tests the paternal, or father’s, line in a family. The Y chromosome is passed father to son and can help verify paternal lineage of an already researched genealogy. It can also lead to non-paternal events—that is, when the Y-DNA doesn’t match the known line, a result of adoption, child from a prior marriage or even an affair. Face it, our ancestors weren’t all saints—if it happens now, it happened back when, too.
This study was started in 2005 and has helped to prove and connect various Combs family lineages. The study looks at 43 alleles on the Y chromosome. The 43 alleles were decided upon by the company the test began under, Relative Genetics. Even though Relative Genetics is no longer in business, the study continues to use the markers originally selected for consistency. My dad’s results will be compared to the database on file to see how close his alleles match those already tested and how many mutations there may be between his and those on file. I will also provide the study my genealogy research so we can try to determine our Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA).
Got all that? In the next segment, I will go into the testing process and the initial results we received.