Genetic genealogy - searching for family history utilizing DNA tools - is this decade's most fascinating innovation for family researchers.
MyHeritage recently partnered with FamilyTreeDNA, which has the largest DNA database of any of the companies in the field as as well as the most extensive DNA information, to help MyHeritage members learn more about their ancestors.
FamilyTreeDNA.com, whose founder and CEO Bennett Greenspan established this pioneer company, has enabled many people to find their genetic cousins and to unravel their unique family histories using the building blocks of life.
As some genealogists like to say: documents may be lost, papers may perpetuate myths, but blood doesn't lie.
If you match someone genetically, you are genetic cousins and have a common ancestor. The only thing to be determined is when your most recent common ancestor lived.
The basic tenet of DNA research for genealogical purposes is to test against the largest possible database to find genetic matches. Testing against a small database will find few if any matches, while testing against the largest database may find more than a few genetic cousins.
Genetic genealogy tests are not paternity or forensic tests, for those who might have questions. Those tests use different DNA components than those for genealogical testing.
Several types of tests are available, from the lowest resolution of 12-markers up to 67 markers for male Y-DNA and tests for female mtDNA. If two people match at 12 markers, they do match, but the common ancestor is deeper in time. If two people match at 67 markers, the common ancestor may well be within a within a contemporary time frame.
DNA helps to determine if different branches are connected, helps to avoid wild goose chases with lines that are not biologically connected, and also helps to determine the truth in history's mysteries.
Researchers often ask if everyone with a certain surname is related. Usually, this is not true, as surnames are relatively recent innovations in Western and Eastern Europe and were adopted fairly recently, some not adopted or required until the early 1800s. In Spain, however, surnames were common back in the 10th century.
In any case, there are various reasons why families with the same name are not related. These may be due a name based on geography, occupation or different type of name. People of different religions and occupations came from one town and took the town name as their surname when they moved elsewhere. Someone whose name meant shoemaker could have come from any town, but not that all shoemakers were or are related.
Working with genetic maps indicating areas of origin for those with different haplogroups (a method of genetic classification) helps researchers understand where his or her family originated.
If you've ever wondered who you are and what your origins may be, a genetic genealogy DNA test may provide some tantalizing answers ... and also raise more questions..
Have you had your DNA tested? Have you discovered genetic cousins or made an exciting discovery using DNA testing? I'm looking forward to reading your comments.