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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - October/November 2005
DNA Testing: Questions and Answers

In an effort to assist the growing number of patrons who are interested in DNA testing from a genealogical perspective, I am sharing some of the most popular questions asked and some basic answers. 
1. Why is genetic testing becoming so important to many genealogists? 
a. DNA testing may provide a scientific way of validating or invalidating information found in genealogical records or family traditions. 
b. Tests may answer nagging questions about surname changes, adoptions, or illegitimacies in family lines. 
c. Test results may verify relationships with a family from a region where you believe someone in your family line lived regardless of what the facts at hand indicate or suggest. 
d. If you have a suspicion, regardless of the reason, that you have a common ancestor with another individual or group. 
e. Because of the recent advances in DNA test procedures and the convergence of genetics and genealogy, some proponents feel that DNA testing can make up for gaps in records availability. 
2. How are these tests administered? 
a. DNA tests administered for genealogical purposes do not involve any type of bloodletting versus those used for medical or criminal justice tests. 
b. You would order a test from a licensed company or vendor and receive a cheek swab kit in the mail or go to a specified testing facility. 
c. The toothbrush-like device is used to painlessly scrape the inside of your cheek. 
d. You place the device and sample in the pre-paid envelope or container and ship it back to the company for analysis. 
e. Your sample will be coded to protect your identity. The company will send you an information packet containing the results and what they mean. 
3. What current DNA testing for genealogical purposes CANNOT tell you: 
a. Since the number of people who have taken the battery of tests is still small, the results must be taken with a grain of salt. 
b. In spite of what some proponents and critics claim, these tests will not reveal any information about your health or your predisposition for certain diseases. Since the regions being examined are between your genes (some refer it this as junk DNA), result are to vague for any medical conclusions. 
c. These tests do not create a unique personal fingerprint that can be put in a database to identify a specific individual. 
d. These tests will not conclusively tell you which ethnic group or tribe you may belong to or the exact country of origin for your specific surname. The tests are designed to allow you to make an educated guess based upon certain genealogical characteristics. 
The Fort Myers-Lee County Library has a number of study guides and articles that go into greater detail on this subject. These study guides are available for photocopying. 
Bryan L. Mulcahy
Reference Librarian 
Fort Myers-Lee County Library 
2050 Central Avenue 
Fort Myers, FL 33901-3917 
Tel: (239)- 479-4651 
Fax: (239)- 479-4634 

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