With the Genealogy Fair on the horizon, I’ve been thinking a lot about how genealogy research and interactions have changed with the introduction of DNA testing. No longer are we isolated branches of families, but a giant interconnection of cousins and kin. Despite the advances of science and DNA testing, the fundamentals of good research, solid sources, and documentation remain unchanged in genealogy. DNA testing has made the fundamentals critically important in working out relationships and connections.
About two years ago, I took the plunge into the genetic pool via DNA testing through Ancestry DNA and FamilyTreeDNA. My first motivation to test was to break the brick wall that I encountered with researching my Dad’s line – generations of tailors in North Devon, all named John or William Ball. As I worked on my Mom’s line, I realized that DNA might help to solve the mystery of my maternal great-grandfather – someone who never quite fit the genealogical record left behind – and whose identity was clouded in snippets of stories surrounding my grandmother’s birth in England just before the end of the Great War and her subsequent adoption by a Canadian soldier and his British war-bride. I’ve also recently come across the ‘ultimate genealogical nightmare’, on my Mom’s line: a Brown marrying a Smith, the perennial conundrum of the common surname. DNA will hopefully help me chip away at these mysteries.
While DNA autosomal testing hasn’t led me to immediate quick answers, it has made me rethink family. For me, it is no longer defined as a narrow single branch, but interrelated and intertwining branches of cousins, half-relations and the occasional misattributed parentage event (where a parent(s) of record is not the actual biological parent). New matches lead to questions of ‘how am I related to them?’, a more critical view of records and family trees, and rethinking and retesting my past assumptions about my own family and research. Although, truth be told, I may not be farther ahead on solving the mysteries, but I have made all sorts of discoveries on many family branches and have opened up new avenues of research.
DNA testing can open up a world fraught with challenges – family secrets may be uncovered, lives changed, and unknown relationships revealed. The task of handling those delicate revelations is the tricky part, but it’s the connections that make us family – the good, the bad and the ugly truths that are part of life.
This year’s KPL Genealogy Fair offers something for everyone – whether you are knee-deep in a traditional search through records, databases and family trees, dipping your toe into the genetic pool for the first time or are, like me, looking at pages of DNA matches and wondering, who is the most recent common ancestor.
So join us on 21 April 2018 to discover your roots at the KPL Genealogy Fair! It’s a day-long free event at Central. No registration is required. Doors open at 9am and our keynote speaker, Mags Gaulden, of Grandma’s Genes, will talk about the power of genetic genealogy to connect us all at 9:30am in the Theatre on the lower level. Stay for the day, attend workshops, and connect with local area archives, libraries and genealogical societies that can help you grow your family tree!