Sunday, February 19, 2012

DNA, Genealogy, and Me

What I know about DNA could fit into a thimble.  But a couple of summers ago I was lamenting to my father that I could not find proof that my grandfather (the handsome fellow in the picture over to the right ) had been a Smathers before he was adopted.  I had anecdotal evidence that supported that our genetic surname was Smathers, but nothing more than that.  

My fear was that in another couple of generations, the story of how my father’s paternal aunts tracked him down would become one of those family tall tales.  My dad asked me if there was any way we could prove the connection.  In fact, I knew there was a way – DNA. 

I was aware that there was a Smothers/Smathers Family Tree DNA project and I knew that a descendent of Franklin Smathers, the brother of my great great grandfather Henry Smathers was one of the participants.  My dad looked at me and said, “Let’s do it.”  So we did.  

I won’t go into all the sleepless nights I had while we waited for the results.  What if the information I had wasn’t correct?  What if one of the earlier Smathers was adopted?  What if there was a child out of wedlock somewhere along the way?  What if – well, you get the idea.  A full quarter of my ancestry would be on the junk heap if there were no match, including my Thacker connection.  Oh boy, it was enough to make a girl sweat!  

Fortunately, when we got the results back,  my father’s DNA was a dead on match with the descendent of Franklin Smathers – 37 out of 37 markers.  (My dad’s DNA also matched those descending further up the line, so there was no adoption, nor any out of wedlock baby.)

Curiously enough, this would not be my only dip into the wonderful world of genetic testing. 

Recently, sent me an invitation to become part of their autosomal DNA study that would look at my genetic ethnicity.  I had to reply by a certain date and agree to pay the shipping and handling fee of $9.95.  While the Y-DNA studies can only be done on males (because if you remember biology class only males have a Y chromosome which is passed on from father to son), autosomal  DNA can be done on both male and females.  In fact, two full siblings can have different results depending on what part of DNA they have inherited.  

Because my mixed heritage is so far back, I don’t have much faith that the test will show anything but European ancestry, but for the bargain price of $9.95 I was willing to play guinea pig! 

Maybe some of you Thacker, Dorton, Napper, Shiflett, Dole, and Freeman lurkers were also invited to participate.  If so, let me know and we can compare results!  

Or maybe, some of you have participated in other DNA testing and have interesting stories to share.  You can reach me by email.  The address is over on the right. 

Wouldn’t it be great if technology turns out to be the key to solving our family mystery? 

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