52 Ancestors, Week 17: DNA

I keep reading on genealogy sites about researchers who have discovered long-lost relatives via the wonders of DNA. I have not, so I do not have a fascinating detective story to tell for my Week 17 post for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project. The topic is, of course, DNA.

The 52 Ancestors challenge, by the way, was created by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow, who provides a different prompt each week for exploring our families.

While I have taken the Ancestry DNA test, I haven’t yet done much with the results. I have no immediate issues regarding adoption. I have no reason to suspect that anyone close to me is the child of anyone except the expected parents. And I have so much still to look into with traditional document-based research. So analyzing my results and sorting my matches has not been a high priority. I absolutely see the value in DNA testing and am fascinated by what it can reveal, so I am not denying its use as a tool in genealogical research. I just have not yet taken the time to learn how to go about it using the Leeds method (a system for sorting and grouping DNA matches) and other resources.

DNA amazes me. It is DNA that gives my son a small mole on his right arm that is identical to the one I have in the same position on my own right arm. DNA let me walk down a city street in Rome and suddenly realize that, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by strangers who looked like me. It lets me see my sister’s face in my father’s baby pictures, even though she grew up to resemble our mother. It ties me to generations of people I have never met in Umbria, Marche, Lazio, and Campania.

If I go back a few generations, there is a family story with no resolution as of yet, one that DNA might help me solve. It involves a possible great uncle, or maybe a great aunt, who may have been put up for adoption by mistake as an infant, during the 1918 flu pandemic. But maybe there was no mistake, and the baby died of the flu. It’s also possible that the whole story is the result of something misheard or misunderstood by a child during a sad and confusing time. Unraveling the threads of that story will be a major focus for me, once I’m ready to take on the intricacies of DNA analysis.

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