By Sandra Barrera, Staff Writer
Los Angelos Daily News
Article Launched: 06/03/2007 09:00:00 PM PDT
Science can only put so much foliage on your family tree.
The experts agree genealogy also requires research, and lots of it.
"One of the things you cannot substitute with just DNA is doing genealogical research," says Alice Fairhurst, a Covina-based genealogist who began unraveling her family history back in high school and has since been employed to help others solve their own puzzles.
In the unusual case of Gordon Matheson, an 83-year-old Lakewood man that Fairhurst thought she shared DNA with but as it turns out didn't, research was crucial.
Genetic tests showed he shared no common ancestry with the Matheson clan of the Scottish highlands.
He was a Dunbar.
The switch may have come 400 years ago when a Matheson woman married a neighboring Dunbar man who took his wife's name.
"The DNA said he looked like a Dunbar and so we tested 67 markers," she says, adding the results came back with an unprecedented high number of matching DNA. "We did so much extra proof just to prove this would hold together."
Most cases aren't as complicated as Matheson's turned out. Here are some suggestions on getting startedwith your genealogical search:
Go with what you already know about your family or can find out by asking, and then write it down.This can save you a lot of research.
Buy a genealogy computer program to put on your computer and help get you organized. There are a number of programs on the market, includingOne option is Family Tree Maker, which is $31.96 at theancestrystore.com.
Visit your local history center for what you don't already know. The genealogists interviewed for this story used the resources at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' Los Angeles Family History Center, 10777 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, and the Southern California Genealogical Society, 417 Irving Dr., Burbank. Call (310) 474-9990 or (818) 843-7247, respectively.
The Web is another great resource for locating census records, death certificates and other important documents for a fee.
You can also chat with people who share your surname. And, who knows, you might just find a distant relative. Some sites to get you started are Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com and FamilySearch.com.
Once you've exhausted your resources and find yourself up against a brick wall, you can put the Y chromosome to the test, says Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA. The company's 12-marker Y-DNA test is $149 and can be purchased at FamilyTreeDNA.com.
If, however, you have a common name like Smith or Jones or Gonzalez, an initial DNA test might help you zero in on your relatives.
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