DNA can help genealogists past the paper trail

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – When a genealogist reaches the end of a paper trail while trying to track his or her ancestry, it is called hitting the wall.
But now that research doesn’t need to stop. Dr. Henry Outlaw, retired Delta State University chemistry department chairman and genealogy hobbyist, said that is when DNA can become helpful.
There are many companies that test DNA and store it in databases for people interested in tracing their lineage.
“DNA testing became a tool for use in genealogy in about 2000,” Outlaw told the North Mississippi Historical and Genealogical Society on Saturday morning at the Lee County Library. “There are many test types and many competing testing laboratories. The trick is knowing what each test means. If you take the wrong test, you’ll get the wrong results.”
Outlaw said his goal was to help the society understand the terminology of DNA testing so they could use the testing services in an informed way.
The DNA testing services send a swab the tester will use to scrape cells out of his or her mouth and then mail back. Once the service tests the swab, the company will send back results and store the tester’s DNA, with permission.
Of the many companies available, Outlaw said he uses FamilyTreeDNA.com because of its larger database.
The companies can compare a person’s DNA with what’s in their databases and show relatives as well as distant ancestry.
The most popular test, Outlaw said, is a Y-DNA test that shows male relatives that share a common relative in the tester’s paternal line.
The mtDNA test will show the female line.
Outlaw said the Y-DNA test is popular because Y DNA changes very little and with a paternal line it is easier to track surnames.
One thing Outlaw said DNA is great for is going back hundreds or thousands of years to see where in the world ancestors originate. He said this is done through comparing halogroups found in a SNP DNA test.
jb.clark@journalinc.com