Why you should do a DNA test for family history

It is Family History Month.  Join Dr. David Andreassen at Eltham Library on Thursday 9 August for DNA for Family Historians

The following is a guest blog post from library member and family history researcher Jean:

When I found a second cousin through DNA, I asked myself why I took so long to do a test.

I had looked at DNA testing and thought about it for quite a while before I finally took the plunge and ordered an Autosomal test. When I look back now I wonder why it took me so long, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!

My family history is from the United Kingdom and Ireland, specifically Cornwall, Dorset, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Essex, southern Scotland and Dublin.

When I ordered my test and waited for the results I told myself that I didn’t have many expectations, but of course, I would like to find a close relative and find some way through walls in my family history research. I know quite a bit about where my ancestors lived and worked, but where did they actually come from? Did my ancestors move as industrialisation took over, or for better opportunities for work and family? I now believe DNA can help with that.

My test results from late 2016 told me I am 68% English with an emphasis on Southern England, particularly Cornwall, so my Cornish ancestors through my maternal grandmother back to the 1600’s appear to be right. My Irish and Scottish heritage through both my mother and father are confirmed with 30% for Ireland and Scotland. The remaining 2% is Sweden! Where did that come from?

I have always been quite confident with my family history research, perhaps that’s why I took so long to decide on doing a DNA test. I have one main line of ancestors from Dublin through my g-g-g grandparents, so how do I have so much Irish ancestry? The percentage I have indicates I must have more and has put me on the right track with another line of ancestors through my mother.

It was my Scottish DNA on my mother’s side that eventually found me a second cousin living in New Zealand. I say eventually because one thing you learn as you check ‘matches’ from your DNA test is that not everyone does a test for their family history, they may only have an interest in their ethnicity. You will also have lots of 4th plus cousins. Finding a third cousin or two is great, but when I found a second cousin I was overjoyed.

I had been trying to find out more about my Scottish grandmother’s family. She had quite a few brothers and I wanted to know if there were cousins still living in or near Musselburgh (near Edinburgh). In October last year an email landed from Margaret who lives in New Zealand and wanted to know more about her mother’s family as contact had been lost when her mother was five. We quickly established that her grandfather was my grandmother’s brother and have been sharing information, photos and stories regularly since. So, another family story begins and continues.

For me a DNA test has been wonderful a success and if I only find this one second cousin I will be happy. Meeting Margaret, so far only by email and photos, has filled a huge gap in my mother’s Scottish story. I think a flight across the Tasman is in order in the near future too!

My last word is yes, do a DNA test, you never know what or who you might find.

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