About us: history, genealogy, Americana Catalog



DNA genealogy, local history, and genealogy

by Geoffrey Brown

Our business is about publishing local history -- helping people discover where they came from.  Genealogy has very much the same purpose, and we're active in that field as well.  And, we're very enthusiastic advocates of what has been called DNA genealogy.

When you're trying to discover your roots, most people start off by making an ancestry tree chart -- you know, you, your parents, their parents, and as far back as you can go. 

For most newcomers to genealogy, "as far back as you can go" is not very far back at all.  In fact, most people find that, while they can probably name their grandparents, they have considerable difficulty naming all their great-grandparents, and can name few or none of the generation before that. They may know of some famous person who is thought to be a distant ancestor if there is a family tradition of such a person.

That is the point where people usually either throw up their hands and give up -- or start their serious genealogical research, which can become a lifelong avocation. 

Until recent years, the basic methodology here had not changed.  You asked your older relatives for information and recorded it.  You occasionally got lucky and found a written (or in some cases, printed) compilation of one or more lines of your ancestry.  You went on, year after year, finding and recording ancestors.  It is hard work, and even when your family members think you are a little dotty for wondering about such things, little can match the feeling of accomplishment when you suddenly discover genealogical proof that your elusive great great grandmother, Mary Smith, is the same Mary Smith that lived in Pawtucket, Rhode Island 150 years ago. 

Using history to compliment this kind of research has become more and more important, particularly as the schools teach less and less history in an effort to emphasize technology and testing requirements.  Geographic mobility compounds the problem: people move around more than they did, and most families are both smaller in number of members and the few whom there are likely are geographically fragmented.  Grandma or Grandpa (with their memories and their stories) is no longer a member of the household.  Hence, while you may have a pretty good notion of the history of the community where you grew up, you may be less confident of the history of other places you have lived, and even less confident of the history of the communities where your parents and their parents lived. 

Yet in this local history are the clues that will help you track your ancestors back those additional generations.  We are here to help you with that process, and we suggest that you check our catalog if you have not already done so.  You may also want to use our search capability to see if we happen to have something about your family or locale.

Sooner or later, you are virtually certain to find yourself asking two questions:

  1. Where did my ancestors come from long, long ago -- what country (or even what continents) did they come from?
  2. How can I be certain that the paper trail I have created through research is actually accurate?

DNA genealogy can help with both answers.  Let's see how it helps --

Where did my ancestors come from long, long ago -- what country (or even what continent) did they come from?

What is called mitochondrial DNA (usually abbreviated MtDNA) can provide a scientifically valid determination of your mother's mother's mother's line (i.e. your maternal line) in terms of where her ancestors came from.  MtDNA is less useful for nearer term relationships, but it is of great value in determining your real roots, where your ancestors migrated after leaving the Rift Valley of Africa, as all our ancestors, regardless of current appearance, once did.

How can I be certain that the paper trail I have created through my research is actually accurate?  How can I find more relatives?

DNA genealogy can help you investigate -- and prove -- your father's father's line -- your male line, usually the "top line" on ancestry charts.  This is known as yDNA (after the Y chromosome).  Since it's a biological fact that only males carry a Y chromosome, if you're female, you will need to enlist the assistance of your male relatives in this task. 

However, because yDNA mutates more rapidly than MtDNA, yDNA is of great value in determining relationships in the last several hundred years -- the time since most people had surnames.  You may be able to find genetic matches with male cousins you did not know you had, and you may be able to push your male line back one or even several generations.  You can also have the experience of finding out where your male line originated, much in the way that you can with your female line.

This happens because you are not alone in your curiosity about your ancestry.  As more and more people have had their DNA tested, the chances that there is already a family group that compiles the DNA profiles for your surname.

Are there any other ways that DNA genealogy can help?

The answer is that there are several.  First off, you can find yourself with a near-exact match with someone whom you did not know was related.  If you have a common surname, or have an adoption or other non-marital event in your history, DNA genealogy is likely to be absolutely key.  Recent developments in autosomal DNA matching may also be able to identify unknown relatives in quite recent time.  Such services - usually offered with names like "Family Finder" - are useful for detecting close relationships (within second cousin range), and are not limited to the father's father's line or the mother's mother's line as yDNA and MtDNA are.

How can I learn more about DNA genealogy?

Well, you can start by taking a college-level course in genetics, but there is a much easier way:  read the "Frequently Asked Questions" sections on the website of a reputable DNA genealogy testing company and follow the links of their pages of more information.  We are happy to recommend Family Tree DNA as reputable and helpful, based on our own experience with that company.  (see the link to FTDNA in the box below). 

Here's A LINK to a family DNA site (Blair family) with an excellent summary of how DNA genealogy works.  This link's information is specific to yDNA (male line) -- what you would use if you are tracing a surname.

The ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy -- a not for profit organization) has an excellent "Newbies" page with lots more information as well.  Click on the ISOGG button to visit their website -- and be sure to check the "Newbies" tab on their website for more information.


If you have an interest in exploring DNA genealogy, we are happy to recommend the company that we use for our own family research, Family Tree DNA.

Try the tool below to see how easy it is to get started.

DNA testing recommended by Between the Lakes Group
Join the Genealogy Revolution.
Search for your surname in the largest DNA database of its kind!

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Thanks for your interest!  We wish you every success in your research, and hope you will come back soon to see how we can help you.  The history that you can find on this website compliments the science you can find in DNA testing.


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Between the Lakes Group is located at 372 Between the Lakes Road, in Salisbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut.  More specifically, we're in Taconic -- a hamlet  in the Twin Lakes area of the Town of Salisbury.  Questions about us or about our products?  Go to our Frequently Asked Questions page.  

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          Taconic, CT  06079-0013
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