There is an enormous amount of discussion on the internet about using DNA testing to “prove” one’s genealogy. Well certainly genealogy and DNA go hand in hand however there are certain limits as to what may be proven.
DNA absolutely may be used to authenticate the parents of an individual. We all inherit absolutely unique codes of information from our parents. 50% of the code in our genomic makeup comes from our father and is known Y-DNA, and 50% comes from our mother which is called Mitochondrial DNA. As long as you are able to collect a sufficient number of cells from all three individuals, you will have absolute proof that the two parents are indeed the ones that created the child.
There are various ways to collect the sufficient number of cells, such as through blood test comparisons, hair follicle strands, saliva, cigarette butts, a soda pop can and all of the various methods you will see on your favorite mystery or crime television program. Most of those tests are indeed the figment of a TV writer’s imagination. They might be able to be done but they very difficult to test and could be very costly.
One thing that is absolutely provable is that a blood spatter at a crime scene compared to a blood sample from a suspect unconditionally can prove or disprove that the blood came from the same individual. The DNA sample can not lie. Only certain people can lie in court and get away with it. OJ did it.
For genealogy and DNA testing there is an easier way. There are now many companies that offer DNA kits to gather the samples with. This is a pain free, no blood method that is actually kind of fun to use. A typical DNA collection kit will contain some sterile envelopes and perhaps some solution to swish around in your mouth for a specified period of time and then spit out into a container.
Another method is to use a simple little scraper which kind of works like a tongue depressor only it is shaped somewhat like a stumpy tooth brush with no bristles. All you do is scrape it up and down inside the cheek of your mouth for a specified period and then this device is sealed and mailed in to the DNA testing center of your choice.
For my own Y-DNA testing I will be looking for my father’s and paternal grandfather’s bloodline male ancestors. Well all of these males are deceased, so what to do? Now we enter into sibling and male cousin relative comparisons to be able to show markers that will compare to the first common ancestor. This should be fairly easy to affirm, as my brother and I will compare to our dad, and then we have three male first cousins that though all three are deceased, they each had male issue and those first cousins once removed will no doubt all compare to my paternal grandfather.
Now after that it will become a little more problematic. My grandfather Jacob HILLENBRAND (1862-1941) was the only son of an only son. Let that sink in for a moment. Grandfather Jacob came to America in 1885 and settled in Upstate New York in Syracuse. I have been contacted many times through my years of genealogy publishing on the internet by other people with the HILLENBRAND (or variant spelling) surname to see if we could be related. My answer at first is a simple “No”. However I mean it in the aspect of related as in modern times. It just can not be so.
We would have to go back in time through three generations to find any of the males that had sons. Gramp’s father died fairly young (1825-1866) and his father also died fairly young (1798-1826). Neither of these two early ancestors had any other male issue, than my direct line.
The earliest ancestor of this surname that I have been able to locate is Caspar HILLENBRAND who was born circa 1760 somewhere in what is now Germany and is first located in church records in Markelsheim, Wurttemberg in the late 1700’s as the father of three sons of which the only one I know anything about is my own direct line ancestor.
So that does leave two possible males that ‘might’ have produced male issue but it would take me a lot of time and money to attempt to track this possibility down to modern times.
However there is a possibility that we ‘might’ be able to perform Genealogy DNA tests on other males anywhere with this surname and if we were able to show that we indeed did have a common ancestor then it might help us to shortcut the amount of genealogical research that we would have to do to show the connection.
I think it will be fun to do and will firm up the many thousands of hours that I have invested this past 40 or so years of intense genealogical research in, and I will write about this later as we gather more information.
If you have your own genealogy and DNA story to tell please leave a comment here on the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog.