|There comes a time in family history research
where you hit a brick wall (and that's a
subject I also promised to write on but I hit the wall). Having hit
the wall no matter what you do the future is clouded, all your contacts
dry up and you resort to a good dose of navel gazing and heavy sighing.
When that happens there are a couple of ways to move the matter forward
and resolve the problem. You can:-
1. Double check, work real hard and find the missing connections,
2. Win a lot of money and relatives will find you. Unfortunately this
will include some people who have absolutely no relationship with
3. You can pass the lot on to your kids and tie further developments
to an inheritance clause; or
4. You can jump on the DNA wagon.
Now let's be quite honest about this,
most of us are lazy and would really like things easy. So option 1
isn't too attractive. You have to go back through your connections
and sources in the hope that you will find some clue. Some tiny pieces
of information that may provide that vital clue. In addition, most
access, be it paper or electronic, can be expensive and a bit hit
and miss. Bluntly you need organisation, tenacity and patience so
option one can go jump.
Option two. What do I say? The
likelihood of winning a large amount of moneys is as likely as tracing
your family tree back to point one. Mind you, you will probably
find lots of relatives including some who have no relationship apart
from wishing to share in your winnings. So in the interest of the
integrity of the family tree, option two probably isn't a good way
to go either.
Ah option three, rely on the kids.
You have to be joking, besides, they'll suss out that there is no
money forthcoming in the inheritance and that's the end of that.
So DNA, or option four if you prefer. New
technology, easy as opening the mouth and voila, instant connections.
Maybe but there will still be a lot of hard work following up with
the references and source data. In addition, you have to rely on
genetic relations participating in a DNA study. Mind you, some countries
DNA test criminals so if you are really trying to save money that
may be an option. However, not with standing the possible limitations
this did not deter me!
For some time now I have been bemoaning
the fact that good
old William George English appears to have been the only one of
his family that emigrated to Australia. Given his subsequent activities
I have a pretty good idea why. Anyhow, family tradition, and everybody
has at least one of these, has it that the rest of the English family
emigrated to America. My best guess is that William George probably
meant to tick America on the emigration form but got a bit confused
and ticked Australia instead. Anyhow, I have been associated with
the English Plantation site (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~englishsurname/index.htm
) for some time and have had several interesting discussions with
the web mistress ( a great visual concept). Around October 2004,
I received an invite to participate in the English Surname DNA study
(www.englishdna.com). Firstly it was an opportunity for me to participate
in a useful activity and gain some information. It was also an opportunity
for the study sponsors to look at how the process worked for a person
in a remote location. This of course is a matter of perspective
as to who is remote from whom.
Now people get upset about the concept
of passing their DNA around all over the world but it's your choice.
You either participate or you don't. Me, I'm in and my first disappointment
was that I didn't have to provide a blood sample. I had visions
of participating in Project Vampire but as the DNA test is based
on scraping a sample from your cheek it's more like Project Spit.
So what happens and how does one get
on board? Well lots of things can happen
and if you want to know the technical bits then check out the web
site at (www.englishdna.com). However, if you want a short version,
the project administrators and the DNA testing laboratory have their
act together and can resolve any problem. Well I hope they can or
my credit card is in for a rude shock. Seriously though both Georgia
Bopp and FamilyTree DNA (http://www.ftdna.com/
) work really well together to resolve some of the issues that occurred.
First issue was there was an initial start
up process whereby a pre-payment could
be made towards the project. This amount was, through creative accounting,
to later be deducted from the DNA test i.e. there was a positive
incentive to join - it was cheaper. However, I found that after
filling out all the details on the payment form I wanted to check
back on the conditions before hitting the transmit button. Okay
we are all wiser in retrospect but I found that the payment transmitted
anyway. And yes I did repeat and made a double contribution. Georgia
refrained from the obvious comment, after all depending what the
DNA result shows we could be related, and swung into action. In
short, she arranged with Max Blankfeld from FamilyTree DNA for the
extra payments to be credited towards the account for DNA testing.
After a series of e-mails it all worked out. So if things go wrong
don't panic. Well not initially anyway. Remember that nobody involved
in the project wants it to go wrong and it's easier to work together
to resolve the problem. Both Georgia and Max do know what they are
doing, unlike some of us, and work hard to resolve 'operator error'.
Besides they thrive on the out of the ordinary. Can you imagine
if there was no variation to their routine, it'd get pretty boring.
So let them have the time to fix the problem before you panic.
Couple of observations about the actual
The kit arrives in a plain brown paper
envelope (good for a laugh) and the instructions
are quite clear if you take the trouble to read them. YOU SHOULD
after all it's your sample and your money. You will find two small
vials and two sealed scrapers. The idea is to open the sample jar
A (be careful not to spill the storage media (let's call it water
for convenience, after all this isn't science 101)) and take out
the scraper. Now at this point resist pushing the non-scraper end
of the sampling stick down otherwise the scraping piece will fall
onto the floor; will collect dirt, cat/dog hair and certainly screw
up your DNA sample. Probably impress the hell out of FTDNA though.
So where was I? Oh yep, we have the scraper in our hot little hand.
Next bit is easy, open the mouth and scrape along the inside of
your cheek. Remove sampling stick, place in vial and depress the
plunger. The scraper falls off and then you can cap the vial. It's
a simple and even I succeeded. The hardest bit was remembering to
mail it back to Max. Oh yeah, one very important piece of information.
Do not forget to sign the authorisation to release information otherwise
what's the point in participating in the study. I say again, do
not forget to sign the authority (I did do it didn't I Barbara).
So send off the sample and wait for all those relatives to roll
in. I know I am and I reckon I can plan a holiday to the US staying
with all my new relatives. You know, cousin Fred 14 times removed.
Hang on, that may be a disincentive to participation. Anyhow, regardless
the English surname DNA project is certainly worthwhile. So in short
sign up to the DNA project, it will contribute to the English DNA
database, help you in your research and lead to further improvements
in exchanging information and ideas. The assistance offered by Barbara,
Georgia and Max is exemplary and Max's company knows its stuff.
So get on board and let's get related.
[Bruce English - 14 December 2004]