"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press & Thorndale Champion
5 March 2004

Molecular Genealogy Research

We are now seeing science and genealogy combining for mutual goals! Molecular genealogy links individuals together in family trees based on their unique identification of genetic markers.

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation is currently working on a study known as the Molecular Genealogy Research Project (MGRP). The first subset containing over 5,000 genetic profiles correlated to pedigree information was released on March 1, 2004 and it is accessible through the project website at http://www.smgf.org. There is no fee to search the database.

Molecular genealogy is accomplished by using the information encoded in the DNA of an individual and/or population to determine the relatedness of individuals, families, tribal groups, and populations. Pedigrees based on genetic markers can reveal relationships not detectable in genealogies based only on names, written records, or oral traditions.

A genetic identification is unique and can even discriminate between closely related individuals or those sharing the same name. The fact that DNA is inherited and that each individual is the product of his/her progenitors means that DNA can be used to not only create unique identifications, but also to identify members of the same family, the same clan or tribal group, or the same population.

At this time, the use of genetics in the genealogical field is primarily limited to tests involving the Y chromosome (which follows the paternal line) and the mitochondrial DNA (which follows the maternal line). The use of these two genetic tests can detect the presence of a common male or female ancestor between any two individuals that have reason to believe they belong to the same paternal or maternal line (the two outermost lines found on a pedigree chart). Unfortunately, these two methods of testing are not sufficient to answer more complex genealogical questions concerning additional family lines.

The majority of people currently living in the United States descend from immigrants of foreign countries. Genealogical investigation has shown that through the process of immigration, or because of adoptions, illegitimacies, or other causes, genealogical records have often been changed, lost, destroyed, or never kept in the first place. As a result, many individuals cannot find a country of origin for one or more of their ancestors. What can be done to restore the link to their rightful heritage?

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation main objective is to find ways to use DNA for genealogical purposes, other than Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA testing. For the past four years, the Foundation has been collecting DNA samples and genealogies from thousands of people from all over the world.

Participation in the MRGP is free, voluntary, and confidential. Individuals with a minimum of four biological generations of pedigree information are eligible to participate in this study by submitting a small DNA samples together with a copy of their family tree. DNA is labeled to protect participants' privacy and then correlated to the genealogical information found on the pedigree charts for ancestors born prior to 1900. As subsets of this large genealogical/genetic database become functional, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation will make them available to the public free of charge.

The Foundation plans to add new genetic profiles and pedigree charts to this database on a regular basis. In the meantime, anyone that would like to contribute a sample of DNA and a copy of their genealogy to the MGRP is invited to request a free participation kit by visiting the project website.

You can be assured; I have already order kits for my family members! What a great opportunity to advance science and genealogy!


In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 5 March 2004 and was last revised on __________

Copyright 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604