The DNA of Genealogy
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The DNA of Genealogy

If one were to try to establish the genome of the fascinating field of genealogy, we might start with a few definitions.

There are those who will define genealogy as that branch of history which involves the determination of family relationships.  Webster's New World Dictionary states that genealogy is a recorded history of a person's ancestry, the study of family descent and lineage.

We all know that the traditional approach to genealogy is to take our pencils and paper and travel to the libraries, archives, churches, genealogical and historical societies and family elders and then proceed to check indexes, examine records, generate abstracts and listen.  Without doubt, traditional genealogy is a slow, meticulous yet rewarding process.

Up to this time, the genome of genealogy had been very stable with no real mutations to deal with.  However this was soon to change.

In the early 1980's, the next generation of genealogists and a few of the "leading edge old timers" introduced the personal computer to genealogy.  Thus began the advent of genealogical computing.  The rapid succession of faster hardware and expanded genealogy software has kept the digital tools of this process in a constant state of flux.  These enhancements continue to significantly increased our ability to find, record, store and display our work.

Then in the early 1990's, the wide spread adaptation of Internet technology started opening the doors to sources of genealogical information never before available to any one person.  Who would have ever dreamed that we would have fingertip access to such enormous treasures of genealogical information and never leave the comforts of home!  Even today in 2001, these storehouses and databases of vital information continue to surface in rapid succession.  There are not enough hours in the day to explore all the information that is available to us, from all corners of the world.

Up to this point, the introduction of all this new technology, software, and Internet databases has only enhanced the time proven, traditional approach to genealogy.  But, fortunate for us, there has always been someone out there who did not believe that the status quo was good enough.  Beginning in the early 1990's was the initiation of the Human Genome Project.  On June 26, 2000, after many timetable revisions, a ceremony was hosted by President Bill Clinton at the White House.  This event celebrated the completion of a "working draft" reference DNA sequence of the human genome.  Although forensic science has been using DNA evidence for many years, the application of molecular genetics to the field of genealogy had been patiently waiting to happen. Genealogical research has entered a new era along with the mapping of the human genome.  Many traditional genealogy projects, stalled for lack of primary citation, began to see the potential for new discoveries using the DNA Y-Chromosome tests that is now being made available, inexpensively, to individuals as well as family groups.

What lies ahead for the family genealogist?  We have many years ahead to explore the full potential of this fascinating DNA domain.  Yet rest assured, if you can manage to keep your DNA healthy, you will see many more changes to this endeavor called genealogy where so few do so much for so many.

Diversity is the key ingredient to the success of the newly emerging field of "genetic genealogy"!

Ron Lindsay, FSA Scot


Copyright June 2001-2017 by Ronald G. Lindsay (all rights reserved)