By Maria R. Perez, MSSW
As our society—our world—continues to struggle with issues of human rights and equality, the DNA and ancestry markets are booming. Somewhat of an irony, I dare say. Now more than ever, we see advertisements for DNA kits; TV shows depicting ancestral roots of celebrities; documentaries on stolen babies; the reunion of long-lost family members. Despite the animosity whirling around us, folks are still eager to connect, including with their ancestral roots.
Besides being able to locate family and discover ethnic make-up, many also want their DNA tested to understand any inherited health risks. Yet, there are many who distrust the process of sending their DNA for evaluation. According to www.buzzillablog.com there are multiple reasons for caution. The ethnicity results may not be accurate, and worse yet, the health results may not be accurate either. And then there are many potential privacy risks. After testing, will your DNA be stored or sold?
So, after making your well thought out decision to have your DNA tested, what company will you utilize? Undoubtedly, you will need to do your research. All companies charge a fee. What is provided with the fee varies from company to company. Some provide your ethnicity results and connect you with others with whom you match DNA. These matches can include parents, siblings, uncles/aunts, grand-parents, and up to 8th cousins. This may also include the means of building a family tree. Other companies may not provide your health-related information. For an additional monthly/yearly fee or membership, some companies allow you to search for documents related to family members. These documents can include, but are not limited to birth and death certificates, marriage, and divorce certificates, as well as baptismal records.
Though there are many options on the DNA testing and family search market, a great place to start would be your local library, where many free resources go overlooked by much of the public. Even if they do not have a genealogy specialist, there may be one at another library branch or they may be able to recommend services from another organization. This search for ancestors is often thought of as an individual’s choice, but this desire to know more can also be important to various communities. One example is the Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) or. the Mormon Church, which highly encourages its members to seek their ancestors. Mette Ivie Harrison writes, “…Mormons believe that families are eternally sealed to each other in heaven, which means not only our nuclear families, but generations in the past and descendants in the future.” (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-mormons-do-genealogy_b_11931784) Based on this tradition, LDS members can join and search some websites at no cost. Some LDS chapels in your community may be open for anyone, regardless of religion to freely use their computers, programs, and archives to conduct family ancestor searches. You can contact LDS chapels in your vicinity for more information.
After you have submitted your DNA for testing you can view your results through the web page of the company that you chose for testing. Your DNA is compared with archaeological samples from Ancient Civilizations. Again, each company will provide the results in different formats. And, this is where the excitement begins – knowing your percentages of DNA from a variety of cultures such as the Native American, Eastern European, Sub-Saharan African, Asian and/or Australian Aboriginal! This newfound knowledge can give you an odd sense of belonging, connection, relatedness, and identity to other people of this world and their culture.
– María R. Pérez, MSSW, Somos Familía Genealogy Services, El Paso, Texas
María R. Pérez is an artist, a writer, and a retired social worker who also enjoys genealogy. She is a strong advocate for the dis-empowered and a founding member of The Tornillo Collective – Individuals calling attention to the plight of migrant families and children in US detention facilities through the arts. She is highly creative and imaginative. Maria grew up with a disability. Maybe her physical limitations made her mind nurture possibilities!