Eve, Julius, Margaret
Aunt Eve, Grandpa and Aunt Margaret in front of a Beer truck. We could dig up Grandpa’s WWI military records with Ancestry.com’s database.

I’ve written about Ancestry.com previously and have come to the conclusion that it’s a great product for people who both want to do research and create a family tree. Another plus is that their database of users is so big that you’ll inevitably connect with distant relatives who also subscribe to the service.

Another plus is that you can build your tree free of charge You only need to pay a fee if you utilize their databases.

You can also, at least get a glimmer of, your family’s roots to their distant past.

They have an “Ancestry DNA” testing service that will take you back innumerable generations. I’m talking thousands of years. By doing so you can trace where your distant ancestors originated. The Ancestry DNA genetic map covers 20 regions around the world such as the British Isles, West Africa, Native America, Asia and a whole lot more.

The test does something else noteworthy.

It will take your DNA data and compare it to Ancestry.com’s voluminous database.

Thus if you have relatives who have already had their DNA mapped out on Ancestry.com’s system, the company will in effect introduce you to distant relatives that you probably never knew were out there.

Copy of Fritz, Selma, JLK c 1922
Was it Grandma who had the Turko-Persian roots?

I was blown away by the multitudes of 4th to 6th cousins that I never knew existed. There were dozens of pages of family ranging from 2nd and 3rd cousins (some of whom I knew) to distant relatives 10 degrees or more removed.

Of course, nothing is really certain when you start getting out there. Ancestry DNA, in effect, “rates” the probability of your “relatedness” with varying degrees of “confidence”. Confidence levels are established by the amount of common DNA you share with others. The higher the confidence level, the more likely you’ll be closely related.

However, you can’t be certain unless you’re pretty close.

Case and point. Ancestry DNA (correctly) pointed out with 99% “confidence” that the 2nd and 3rd cousins it found, were indeed blood relatives. They were right. The next level down were a multitude of 3rd to 4th cousins that they said had a 96% chance of being related. However, I’d never heard of these individuals and chances are if they were that close, I would have.

Hmmmmm….

Copy (2) of Fritz, San Francisco c 1948 (1)
We could track Uncle Fritz’s ship passage from Europe to San Francisco with Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com says that with six to 10 degrees of separation, their tests are “accurately able to predict about 90% of the possible relatives that are out there”.

The cool thing is that if you want to connect with a newly found cousin, the program enables you to contact them via email.

It’s also fascinating to find ancestral origins that you might not imagine. In addition to my European roots, I have 8% Persian/Turkish/Caucasus ethnicity. Maybe that explains my love for Persian carpets and pomegranates.

The test is easy to do. They send you a package with a little vial to collect a modest amount of saliva. If you can spit, you can take the test!

Ancestry.com says the advantage to their service is that it utilizes autosomal testing which covers both the maternal and paternal sides of the family tree. They have their own scientists on board who continuously improve the technology.

Once you get the test, they will continue to send you links to new found relatives. There are all kinds of databases available too. My father was able to see his father’s military records during the First World War (in German). The database has access to birth and death records as well as phone books and travel. If you are at all curious about your background, doing this a no-brainer. Price is $99.

For a great introduction to the DNA Ancestry visit: http://dna.ancestry.com/

Rob Kay has written about technology and life sciences for over 20 years. His columns have appeared in Pacific Business News, the Honolulu Star Bulletin and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. 

Rob Kay also writes about firearms for Hawaii Reporter and is the author of How to Buy an AK-47.

 

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