04 March 2007

Digging deeper with DNA in Seattle

Family Tree DNA founder Bennett Greenspan recently had a very successful visit to Seattle. The Jewish Transcript wrote a nice follow-up and interview about his visit.

In the article, he describes how genealogists are inspired to begin their research: listening to family stories, looking for old documents and photographs, the never-ending Internet search, travel to the "old country" and rooting around dusty archives. We may then hit the inevitable brick wall, which is where DNA may be the only place to turn for more information.

"For many families, the story of how they got to where they are and what they have become consists of gathered tales from an uncle who served in World War II, a great-grandfather who somehow got from a village in the “old country” to Ellis Island, or some black sheep cousin last seen heading for the wilds of Canada.

"The more determined familial historian may have scoured family attics and the courthouses of the land. They seek out tattered newspaper clippings often filled with factual errors, portrait photos or fuzzy snapshots of unidentified and long forgotten relatives, simply to seek yet another piece of the puzzle.

"The most resolute may have made documenting family history a passion and went modern a decade ago, hitting the Internet or perhaps traveling to the ancestral homeland. In the end, the trail inevitably ran out within a few hundred years — if it had not been diverted by fire, flood or language barrier.

"Even the best genealogists might be able to tell you they have found family lines dating back to the 15th century, but after that, the mists of time seem to shroud all. Paper records were not kept or have not survived.

"There is little, if any, useful information in existence until the point that a society began to make use of surnames, a practice that did not come into use in some areas until the last 150 years."

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State is following up with author/researcher Colleen Fitzpatrick, a former NASA scientist, who will speak on "Forensic Genealogy," focusing on old photographs. For more information on the meeting on March 19, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment