Friday, May 10, 2013

DNA Endgame? Maybe Not!

There's a lot of buzz in the genealogy community right now about DNA and that trend is not going away. A recent technology article at The Verge predicts that DNA will end genealogy research, as we know it, within the next twenty years. It makes sense that DNA genealogy will change how we research and document our family history, but I don't see it ending the hard research.

Picture my granddaughter, 40 years from now, deciding she wants to know about her heritage. She gives a DNA sample to the premier testing company and within minutes she receives a pretty printout of her family tree. But think about what's on that chart. Where did the information come from?

That's right. You got it. The family tree of tomorrow is born from the research that we and our cousins are doing today and sharing with companies and organizations such as Ancestry, Family Search, My Heritage, and many more. The accuracy and completeness of our research will be critical to future generations.

I decided today to gather some statistics on one of my longest-standing puzzles. The two-men / same-name puzzle is often very hard to solve and this one is made even more difficult by the previous generation.

We have two cousins named (Thomas) Jefferson Alexander born a year apart, with fathers Simpson and Sampson. The fathers may have been twins, brothers or cousins. My ancestor married Rebecca. But who were his parents? Jeff and Rebecca had many children, but not a one was named for grandparents.

On today there are 30 public trees and 8 private trees showing Jeff with wife Rebecca and the right death date. There are perhaps 20 others with a death date and no wife, or with no death date.

Focusing only on the first 38 trees, 39% have no parents for Jeff. I applaud those researchers for not taking the easy route!

By far, most researchers have chosen Simpson as the father. Only one has chosen Sampson.There is one record that strongly suggests Sampson is the correct father, but it's a secondary document. Yet it is the best source known today. My own "no parents" is changing to "Sampson".

What tree will my granddaughter receive in 40 years? Will it be Simpson based on "votes"?

DNA may definitively solve this puzzle someday, based on the wives of Simpson and Sampson. For now, continued research in obscure record sets is the only way to unravel this tangled tree.

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