Saturday, March 14, 2009

Adding DNA to your genealogical research?

I'm currently taking a marketing class while working towards my MBA, and our assignment is to write a marketing case plan study about a company of our choice. Recently, I've been fascinated with the expansion of DNA research in genealogy, and have been researching the differences between the services offered by both FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry.com.

I'll admit that I've been skeptical in the past to the claims of some who've offered these services. The science was above my paygrade, and the "it's too good to be true" factor seemed high. The paper trail genealogy was the way to go for me, even though I've been guilty of not gathering as much documentation as possible.

There are two types of DNA tests available, the Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) and the mitochondrial (mtDNA). The Y-DNA traces the paternal line, the mtDNA traces the maternal line.

My paternal line goes back to a Jacob Lemasters (1770-1852) who first appears in Mason Co., VA (now WV) in 1806. As of yet, no paper documentation has been able to connect him as a descendant of Abraham Lemaster (c1636-1722), the emigrant to Maryland who is the claimed ancestor of approximately 90% of all Lemaster, Lemasters, Lamaster, etc. in the United States. A Y-DNA test would enable me to determine if I am related to other Lemasters who have documented their connections to Abraham.

My maternal great-grandmother was illegitimate, and the likelihood of discovering her true parentage through traditional documented genealogy is low. I wonder if it is her father's heritage that has left me, my mother and grandmother with the dark eyes and complexion. Was her heritage Italian? Who knows? A mitochondrial DNA test might give me some clues as to my ethnic origins. I would imagine that the majority would be European, but who knows what 'surprises' might lie in my DNA.

The tests are not cheap, but they are definitely getting cheaper. Recently, Ancestry has lowered its prices on the tests, and I'm tempted to jump into the DNA research waters.
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