DNA testing has many twists

Family Searcher by Nina Brawn    Well, after years of delaying for one reason or another, I finally submitted my first DNA test, and received results last week. I just wish I hadn’t put it off so long because of confusion and cost. Originally, the cost for genealogical testing was about $500, but the price has continued to fall since then.

    The confusion has taken longer to get through, and I still don’t understand it as well as I’d like to, but well enough that I decided not to delay a decision any longer. This past spring I went to the Family History Fair at the LDS Church in Bangor. I attended two short workshops on DNA testing.
    The first one sort of explained the three most common types of testing available for genealogy — mitochondrial, YDNA and the newest; autosomal testing. Y DNA testing only follows the direct male line, basically surname testing. Mitochondrial DNA testing gives information about the female line, and Autosomal testing gives general genetic information which indicates how closely related different people may be.
    I put off testing for many years once I learned the first two types wouldn’t solve my problems. I was very excited to learn that there is a YDNA study being conducted for my Briggs line, but because I am female I could not take part, so I have enlisted the “genes” of a male Briggs cousin who is going to be tested.
    This will, we hope, confirm our research that indicates we are descended from Clement Briggs who landed in 1621. This will be great news for thousands of Briggs cousins who lack a birth certificate as proof that his son Remember Briggs really was his son, therefore we really are his descendants.
    I learned at the conference that the more relatives get tested, the better we can learn which genes came from which ancestor, which is amazing to me. I also learned that the different testing companies give different kinds of results, but that you can download the “raw data” to compare your results. The final factor that prompted me to test now, was the realization that my aunt is the only living child of my Italian immigrant grandparents, and at 95, the last chance to get their undiluted DNA.
    I went to the assisted living facility where my aunt now resides, armed with a tube into which I needed to persuade her to spit. (yikes!) I promptly got “hauled into the principal’s office” for failing to consider that her children were now the only ones “authorized” to give her permission to spit into the tube. As if persuading a gentle 95 year old woman (with dry mouth syndrome) to spit into a tube for DNA testing isn’t hard enough!
    However, those obstacles were eventually overcome, and the results have given me a 35 page list of possible relatives whom I have started to contact.
    Getting these results has been more exciting to me than I anticipated, and I have a couple of new possible cousins to share research with and who seem just as excited as I am. I am just sorry now that I didn’t start sooner.
Nina G. Brawn has lived in the Dover-Foxcroft area for over 50 years and currently lives there with her husband Fred. Nina was the last of 10 children, has three children of her own and nine grandchildren. She can be reached online at ninagbrawn@gmail.com.

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