Wednesday, March 16, 2005
By Lana Drucker
Marietta Daily Journal
Terry Barton grew up knowing a lot about his family. Past generations of Bartons documented their family trees in Bibles and letters passed down over the years. Unlike many others, he could trace his family tree back 140 years. There, he hit a brick wall. He knew his roots must extend beyond the last known Barton, but for no apparent reason, the family line seemed to vanish in the year 1865. He began retracing his steps and searching for extended Barton family members. Along the way, Barton joined a growing number of genealogists who were using the Internet to track each other.
With the assistance of the Web, Barton was able to contact other Bartons all over the world. On paper, their Barton family trees appeared to collide. Curiosity, and a growing interest in the science of genealogy, led Barton to wonder if he was related to these other families genetically. However, there was no guarantee that Terry Barton's family could connect to these other Barton families. Then, just four years ago, Barton's search led him to a new place - one much older than any courthouse he ever visited looking for documents verifying his family's existence. By using science, he was able to trace documents never before seen by the human eye.
Barton's research led him to a new trend in genealogy - the use of DNA to prove a connection between people with the same surnames. Many families sharing the same last name can connect their family trees on many levels. However, genetically proving that two families with the same last names are related can be close to impossible. By looking at the genetic makeup of male representatives from all of the families, genealogists can prove whether these families at one time were related.
Today, Terry Barton is the president of the Barton Historical Society (BHS) and co-leader of the 138-man Barton DNA Project. His research has helped him trace his family well beyond his Southern roots into Lancaster, England. It has also inspired him to help others who are tracing their surname ancestry. Terry Barton, along with his distant cousin Richard Barton, started World Families Network, a company focused on helping other families using DNA testing to find their family roots.
"I help people find their genetic families - their surname ancestry," said Terry Barton. "By doing a DNA test, you get a laboratory result that you can compare with others and determine if you share a common ancestor."
So how does it work?
"The first step (for someone who wishes to use DNA to track their family history) is to define as much of their genealogy as they can traditionally," said Barton. "Eventually, we all hit a brick wall though. That is when we turn to DNA testing. This way, we can look for other people who share our genetic ancestry."
When using DNA to study surname genealogy, the 23rd chromosome pair is examined. DNA contains the genetic code that exists in each cell of the human body. At the 23rd chromosome, females have two X chromosomes while males have one X and one Y. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son and is usually identical from father to son. Occasionally, there is a mutation. Over thousands of years, these mutations result in distinctive DNA profiles for different families.
The chromosome profiles are examined on three separate levels to determine if there is a genetic match between male members. DNA tests are given on three levels that measure the number of similarities that can be found: a 12 marker test, 25 marker test or 37 marker test, which provides the most accurate results.
"The more markers" - meaning similarities in the DNA strand - "the higher the resolution," said Barton. "If someone took the test and it matched the Barton family line on a 37 marker test, I would be interested. There basically aren't any other families (other than Bartons) matching at 37. If someone matched at 25, I would be somewhat interested. Someone who matches at 12 could match hundreds of others."
Before DNA testing, Mr. Barton could only trace his family records back to 1865. Beyond that the family was a mystery. He believed his family descended from England, but the proof was lacking. Thanks to his research, that is no longer the case.
"I was blessed with earlier generations who had done a lot of research and published materials," said Barton. "I could go back to 1865, but beyond that, no one knew. I now have genetic matches that tell the answers I need to be positive. I match two different families who trace themselves back to Lancaster, England."
The enthusiasm Barton felt about finding his own lineage led to a desire to help others do the same. A year ago, he started World Families Network. Initially, Barton hoped to passively help others searching for their DNA roots collect the information and post it on the Internet for others to view.
"Through World Families Network, people can find, read and self educate themselves," said Barton. "On the Web site we started a listing of all the surname projects and hoped to find other active projects in the world. We would give (researchers) a free Web site they could use. In return, we asked that they click on a link to get us commission. Then, late last year, we went from being passive to active."
World Families Network now establishes surname projects where there are none. There are now almost 100 active projects that Barton has started and others have joined.
As more people submit DNA for research, results from their tests are coming in and more and more matches are being made.
Through World Families Network, Barton hopes to bring more attention to DNA research. With the company's assistance, Barton hopes to attract families who want to trace their roots but need assistance with DNA research. Eventually, Barton hopes to have many families represented - making the search to tie family roots together much easier.
"We hope to find that person who has enthusiasm about tracing his ancestry but not necessarily the skills," said Barton. "We bring them in, they work with their family and we help them set up a Web site and administer DNA testing."
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