Imagine searching for 13 years using traditional genealogical techniques to learn four generations of your maternal grandmothers' names and where they lived. For Cynthia Wilson, an administrative assistant living in Seattle, this meant spending her vacations in Virginia and North Carolina courthouses and libraries poring over old deeds, probate records and birth registries.
"I wanted to find out and verify who my grandmothers on my maternal side were," she said. "I don't mind the hard work of research and I even like to read difficult documents, like old court records," she said. "But I don't like brick walls."
The ability to hurdle family history research barriers with DNA testing has revolutionized the hobby of genealogy, solving many problems where traditional methods dead-end, such as missing or inaccurate paper records. Until recently, Y-chromosome testing was used most often. But Y-chromosome testing is limited to researching paternal ancestry. And because women do not have the Y-chromosome, they must have a close male relative tested for them.
For Wilson who was curious about her maternal line, the solution was testing her mtDNA, a service now offered by many consumer-based laboratories using a mailer and a simple cheek-swab. mtDNA is a powerful tool for tracing maternal ancestry for both men and women because it is inherited by children exclusively from their mothers. Entering her genetic profile into the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation's (SMGF) online database, which is the world's largest correlated genetic-genealogy catalog, Wilson learned where her ancestry intersected with others who have submitted their genetic profiles and pedigree charts.
NOTE from DearMYRTLE: For the rest of the story see http://www.smgf.org/success_stories.jspx?story=5