Saturday, July 29, 2017

Bloodlines

           I’m not sure what TV commercials are playing in your neighborhood, but it seems like we’re always seeing the Ancestry.com commercial where they urge you to purchase a DNA test to reveal your ancestral roots.

           My wife Wendy did that a few months ago.  And as Ancestry.com advertises can happen in their commercials, the results were a little surprising.  I wish I could say the results made searching her genealogical past a little easier.   But it just made me wonder about the validity of DNA testing.

           Up front, I’ll say I’m no fan of Ancestry.com.  They make researching your ancestral past very much a hit or miss affair.  For example, you can search among their public family trees to try to find other family members who have already researched your surname. That’s the easiest way to research, right?  Build upon what others have already done.

         But say you’re researching an unusual surname, for example “Kermitfrog.”  So searching through its database of public family trees, Ancestry.com says there are none of those exact surnames.  Not a surprise.  OK, try checking names “similar” to “Kermitfrog.”  Still zip.  So how about names that sound like “Kermitfrog.”  Bingo.  Now I’ve got 189,596 hits and it starts me with hits 1 through 10.

      That’s the way it is at Ancestry.com’s website.  You either get inundated with a ton of data that turns out to be almost worthless.  Or you get nothing.   To me it’s like going to the librarian and asking where to find a book on a specific literary quotation.  Either they’ll tell you they don’t have one, or they’ll tell you, “Try over there in the reference section.”

     The cynic in me believes that Ancestry.com wants to slow your genealogical research to a crawl so that you’ll be a paying customer for life.  Anyway, I use the free Ancestry.com service available at the library which, I found out, operates differently and less informatively than the service you pay for.  Wonderful.

     Anyway, back to my wife’s DNA results.  According to Ancestry.com, she’s mostly of English descent.  But according to every bloodline I traced back to the Old Country, her ancestors came from Germany.  And she herself came from Pennsylvania Dutch country, another indication of German heritage.  Her Ancestry DNA test confirms that, in fact, her ancestors were among Pennsylvania’s early settlers.  Even Ancestry.com lists of my wife’s “DNA cousins” show people whose public family trees purport that their ancestors emigrated from Germanic territories.

      Something is very odd here.

      There was a news item today that reported doubt over the Biblical account describing the genocide of the Canaanites.  The news story stated that DNA testing showed that the descendants of the Canaanites are alive and living in Lebanon.


     Well, if Ancestry.com was in charge of this DNA testing, I’d get another opinion.

4 Comments:

Blogger Carine Nadel said...

I was wondering about that site. A high school friend loves it and uses it all the time. I'm a cynic when it comes to things like this-my maternal grandma and her family were either: Russian, Polish or German-depending on what army was pushing the boundaries at that time!

5:36 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

CARINE--Good point. Some of Wendy's relatives came from what is now Poland, but was then Germany, or Prussia. And they were being harassed by the French who were trying to take over their neighborhood. I know all's fair in love or war but it makes it tougher to trace genetic ancestry.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

They advertise here, too. I've never bothered with them.

I'm of Scottish and Irish descent. Actually, only a couple of hours ago I was talking with my half-brother via the telephone...and we were discussing our heritage.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

LEE--It is interesting what you learn even if it takes some time. We felt at home when we visited Ireland and Scotland. Nice place to be from, IMO.

4:08 PM  

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