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Growing and Sharing Your Family Tree shows how rewarding and informative building a family history can be. Genealogy instructor Jeff Sengstack teaches how to find lost ancestors, connect with living relatives, and collaborate with others to grow a family tree. He explains how to use the Family Tree Maker application along with Ancestry.com and other internet sites to track down census data, immigration records, and other important documents, and then organize family tree data. Jeff also presents tips on how to scan old photos, create video slideshows, and build family web sites. Exercise files accompany this course.
Download Jeff's free genealogy tips from the Exercise Files tab.
Your DNA can help grow your family tree. At this early stage of genealogical DNA testing I can say for sure that your DNA results will lead to connections to unknown family lines. But as more people submit their DNA to services like ancestory.com, the chances are that you will find long- lost family members increases. This is how it works. Geneticists can look at our DNA and count the number of repeating sequences of DNA at locations or markers on the DNA double helix. They have discovered certain markers where differences in the number of repeating sequences indicate different family lines.
If you and someone else have the same number of repeated sequences at some number of selected markers, there's a likely that you have a shared ancestor. The more markers you test, up to about 50, more than that I believe doesn't help much, the greater the likelihood that matching results mean you have a shared ancestor. The thing is this test is only for men. It works only on paternal lineages because it uses the Y-Chromosome, the chromosome only men carry. There is a test for women, the Mitochondrial DNA test, mtDNA. It's much less revealing than a Y-chromosome DNA test.
But the mtDNA and the Y-Chromosome test identify a so-called predicted haplogroup, i.e. it denotes with some reasonable probability who your ancient ancestors were, going back tens of thousands of years. But it's unlikely that you'll be able to find direct relatives from only an mtDNA test. There are a number of genealogical DNA testing services. ancestory.com works with a state of the art laboratory, Sorenson Genomics, to analyze your DNA. Here is how it works. You collect your DNA by rubbing the inside of your cheeks with cotton swaps.
Since all cells in your body contain your entire DNA sequence and cheek cells are easy to remove, cheek cells are a good source for DNA testing. You mail the cotton swaps to ancestory.com, they are sent to the lab and your results are posted on a password- protected webpage that you can access at any time. If you take the Y-Chromosome test, you can view others with equal or very similar results. Your so-called most recent closest ancestors. In my case the most likely recent ancestor candidates connect with my family eight or more generations back, more than 200 years.
For that reason alone it's not likely I'll find a connection. More to the point the Y- Chromosome test is a paternal lineage test. The Y-Chromosome is passed from father to son, to son, to son, and so on. So unless a most recent closest ancestor has the last name of the person taking the test, it's highly unlikely that there'll be a connection. I have sent emails through the ancestory.com service, which does not disclose email addresses, to the four individuals with the closest results. So far we have not found any connections. A better strategy would be for me to somehow convince others Sengstacks to take the test to see if we have a shared ancestor.
I admit the results in my case are disappointing but for now at least I know my haplog and my DNA is in the ancestory.com database. As others submit their results there's a chance that down the roads someone will discover connection with my family tree and send me an email. So doing DNA testing and posting your results online is kind of like putting your family tree online. You never know when someone will find a connection and contact you.
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