DNA testing takes genealogy to next level
By MARY ELLEN HOPKINS
For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/02/05
Terry Barton plants trees, but you won't find him playing in the dirt. He's digging into DNA evidence to grow family trees through his company, World Families Network.
What started as a hobby became a serious effort to unravel the roots of his own family tree five years ago when Barton, who lives in Cobb County, retired from Coca-Cola.?
His family had been traced to Stafford County, Va., in 1675, where ancestors likely were tobacco planters. He did traditional research, but was unable to go back any further. "At that point, I hit a brick wall," Barton said. "I was stuck on this side of the Atlantic."
So, he turned to DNA testing, or genetic genealogy, and the rest is history. His history.
Using DNA, Barton made a likely connection with ancestors who lived in Lancashire, England, in the early 1100s. He is working to confirm his relation to the Scottish Bartons who lived in Yorkshire in 1154. Tracing his genealogy, Barton has met distant cousins and family members he never knew he had.
"It's a thrill. You just never know who or what you are going to find," he said.
He started World Families Network, a for-profit company, just over one year ago to help other families find their ancestors. The Web-based business ? Worldfamilies.net ? has 150 surname projects working.
Thanks to the popularity of television crime shows, most people know that DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the genetic blueprint of humans. It helps investigators solve real crimes. Now, it has a new role. One swab of the cheek, and genetic genealogists are off on the ultimate treasure hunt.
Two types of DNA can be used to search for ancestors. The Y chromosome, passed from father to son, is the most commonly used test. Mitochondrial DNA traces the maternal link and is passed by the mother to her offspring.
"It's easier to use the Y DNA because, as goes the DNA, so goes the surname," Barton said. "When you trace the female side of a family, many more names are involved and you can get lost."
Lee Tucker, president of the Cobb Genealogy Society, said DNA testing answers a lot of questions. "You may think you are related to someone, but the DNA can tell you for sure," he said.
According to Barton, DNA testing can be a valuable tool in growing your family tree when it is combined with conventional research. The findings can be exciting, he said, but sometimes the truth hurts.
From the time he was a child, Barton had been told that he was a descendent of Clara Barton, heroine of the Civil War and founder of the American Red Cross. When the DNA proved otherwise, it was a shock.
"I always thought we were related, I had this delusion from childhood that we were," Barton said. "Of course, I thought the DNA would match. It didn't."
To trace your family tree, Barton suggests talking with family members to gather as much information as you can. Joining or starting a project on his Web site is free, but you'll pay for genetic testing.
Barton's company works with FamilyTreeDNA.com, which provides testing kits. Three levels of tests are available, the 12 marker, the 25 marker and the 37 marker. FamilyTreeDNA.com pays Barton a commission for test kits sold through his company. The kits cost $99 for the 12-marker test, $169 for the 25-marker and $219 for the 37-marker test.
The tests are cheek swabs, similar to what you see on the television crime shows. You mail it back to the lab, and your results are usually available in two months.
DNA testing has taken genealogy to a new level, Barton said, but paperwork and old-fashioned research is still necessary if you want to trace your bloodline.
"Doing the paper trail is critical, because the DNA test results don't come with a list of relatives," Barton said, "You have to make that connection."
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