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Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree

Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree [Kindle Edition]

Megan Smolenyak , Ann Turner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Written by two of the country's top genealogists, this authoritative book is the first to explain how new and groundbreaking genetic testing can help you research your ancestry

You're introduced to a stranger who shares your last name. Don't you always wonder, "Could we be related?"

Thanks to breakthrough science in the rapidly growing world of genetics, it's now possible to find out. Trace Your Roots with DNA is the first comprehensive guide to this amazing new field. With genetic testing (don't worry—no needles, medical privacy is assured, and you don't have to dig up your dead relatives), you'll be able to knock down genealogical brick walls. The fascinating results can tell you:

  • If you're related to someone with the same or similar last name
  • Which region your African ancestors came from
  • If that family rumor of adoption is ­really true
  • Whether or not you ­really have a Native American ancestor—and more!

Most important, you'll find out how the tests work, which ones to use, where to get them, and how to read your results. Join the future of genealogy, and learn to Trace Your Roots with DNA.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2986 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale (7 Oct 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004GHMS5I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #444,480 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read 6 Jan 2011
A very good read and well worth getting if you are interested in tracing your family history with DNA. All very interesting stuff , Excellent
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is OK for the beginner but like all such things has quickly become out of date. My version was written in 2003. Still a good reference book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
147 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who would have believed it twenty years ago?... 6 Nov 2004
By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty - Published on
Millions of Americans have become hooked on genealogy, the science or study of family descent. The popularity of pursuing one's ancestors through tracing one's roots backward generation by generation has soared since the advent of the Internet, which made it possible to rapidly search the world for even remote family members and set up family websites, and the creation of special computer software which enables anyone to use the power of the computer to trace his or her domestic roots. Now it is possible to go to the next level of searching one's family tree through the availability of DNA testing. And that is what this book, "Trace Your Roots with DNA," is all about.

Co-author Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (no, that's not a typo!) has been an eager genealogist for more than thirty years, is an authority on family history research, and was the lead researcher for the Ancestors series on PBS. She is also a contributing editor for "Heritage Quest" and the author of a number of books related to genealogy and ancestor historiography. The other co-author, Ann Turner, became interested in genealogy when she learned that her parents' ancestors had arrived in the United States on the same ship, yet went their separate ways until her parents met 300 years later. That sort of coincidence would also have piqued my interest in my family history if I knew something like that about my parents. Sometimes facts are really stranger than fiction.

"Trace Your Roots with DNA" is not really for leisure reading, but it does contain very valuable information for those who want to use the new DNA tests for help in tracing their family ancestry. It contains a lot of technical material (although I hope that point does not scare anyone away), but the authors explain everything in terms which any ordinary person of average intelligence can understand and there are ample illustrations provided to help clarify what is being described. I suggest the reader do a rapid once-through-reading of the book and then consider it a sourcebook, guidebook, or resource to be consulted often. The authors provide a brief introduction to the fundamentals of genealogy and genetics, including a brief overview of classical genetics, blood types, phenotypes, genotypes, molecular genetics, the principles of DNA, and even a short section about mutations.

I found their discussion of the Y chromosome and its ramifications to be especially interesting. The Y chromosome is inherited from fathers and occurs only in males. This was of particular interest to me, not merely because I am of the male gender, but because of the following statement made by the authors: "If we had a time machine, we could trace the Y chromosome of every man living today back to one man." Furthermore, say the authors, this "Most Recent Common Ancestor" of all men was a real person, not an abstraction, and is sometimes called "Y-Adam," almost certainly born in Africa less than 100,000 years ago. That to me means that in one important sense all of us males are really related to one another and the differences between us are mainly cosmetic. Talk about male bonding! And that, by the way, is what they called the chapter about this topic: "Male Bonding."

Now, don't think that the female of the species is left out of the picture. There is an entire chapter devoted to the "Maternal Legacy" and the importance of mitochondrial DNA. Since the paternal lineage of all men living today focuses on one man, Y-Adam, can everyone today trace their straight maternal lineage back to one woman? "The answer is yes," say the authors, "and she is dubbed mitochondrial Eve." Furthermore, similar to Y-Adam, "mitochondrial Eve was born somewhere in Africa." But, interestingly enough, "she did not live at the same time as him" and, "while her date of birth is uncertain...most estimates fall within a range of 120,000 to 200,000 years ago, long before Y-Adam." The conclusion? According to the authors, "Adam never met Eve!" You'll have to read the book yourself for the rest of this story.

The discussion surrounding Y-chromosomes, mitochondrial DNA, geographical origins, and kin relationships includes information about the types of available DNA testing, what kind of information the tests can provide, how to interpret the results, and how the tests work. These test are becoming increasingly inexpensive and reliable and they are as effortless as swabbing the inside of your cheek and mailing a sample to a testing facility. The authors also provide information about joining an ongoing genealogy project or starting and running your own project, as well as information about finding prospects for your project, contacting and courting participants, and interpreting and sharing results.

If you are interested in your family ancestry and want to use the latest tools available in your genealogical research, then this book is one you should have in your personal reference library. The very helpful appendix includes a list of genealogical resources, including special forms which can be downloaded on the Internet, a list of genealogical computer software (some for free!) and websites, both free and commercial, devoted to genealogy and tracing your roots, plus there is a list of DNA testing companies and products, and a glossary to help readers understand the technical terms involved in this subject. The standard index of topics is also provided at the back of the book. All in all, this book is a highly recommended work for those who are participating in or want to participate in this fascinating avocation.
90 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genetic Research and Genealogy Converge 23 Nov 2004
By M. L Lamendola - Published on
This book explores the convergence of genetic research and genealogy, and provides its own convergence of the academic with the practical.

Some people make a life's work of tracing their family roots. I'm not one of those people. But a few years ago, my sister researched our family's immigration on the paternal side and found the account we'd been told our whole lives simply wasn't true. So when I saw this book, I thought it might be interesting. That's exactly what it turned out to be--in spades.

The authors took care to make the book readable to both novices and experienced genealogical researchers. As I have no experience in genealogy, I very much appreciated Part I. It gave me a good background, so I could understand and enjoy the rest of the book. Folks who already knew the basics could skip over Part I, without missing out on something of value to them.

This modular organization of Trace Your Roots is something I want to explain a bit more, by looking for a moment at a different genre. One of my pet peeves with computer books is most of them are either extremely basic throughout so you get bogged down in boring detail, or they are so advanced you just can't move forward. The correct approach is to include a primer on the basics for those who need it, and then write the book as though everyone knows the basics. I was pleased that Trace Your Roots took this approach.

Moving beyond the primer (which addresses genealogy and then genetics), the book takes one subject at a time and explains it in a clear and interesting way with examples and anecdotes.

In Part II, we start with tracing roots along the paternal path. There are two basic reasons for taking this path. The first is biological--the Y chromosome. The second is cultural--many cultures, especially in the West--preserve the paternal surname.

There are some twists in this approach, though, and the book explains what they are and how researchers handle them.

The next topic is, as you might expect, tracing roots along the maternal path. The main reason for taking this path is biological--the mitochondrial DNA. I was fascinated by the explanation and implications of this. And here's a tidbit. The father's contribution (Y chromosome) contains nothing essential, which makes sense when you realize that female offspring don't have Y chromosomes (and so don't pass along the paternal line).

The mitochondrial DNA, however, is very different in that respect and in other ways as well.

Part II also explains where various genetic groups seem to originate and why. Chapter 5 contains a fascinating account of a man who had made his African American heritage a major part of his life and identity. But through genetic testing, he discovered he had no African American heritage--what he "knew" was based on faulty family lore.

Where Part II delves into tracing next of kin relationships, the implications cover a wide area of interests. This kind of research affects everything from paternity suits to family reunions to identifying natural parents. Consider one anecdote the book revealed. An adopted child of unmarried parents finds her natural father, and they develop a close relationship. But, she struggles for years to find her natural mother. She uses the tracing techniques in Part II and finds her mother. But, the mother denies the man is the woman's father--and genetic testing proves he's not. You'll read other accounts where truth seems stranger than fiction, as well.

Part III puts the paddle in the water. It's here where you see how to apply the knowledge gained in the previous pages. This part explains how to join or run a research project, how to contact research participants, how to persuade people to donate genetic material and information, how to interpret test results, how to share results, and how to obtain the shared results of other research. If you want to research your roots, this part of the book will save you hours of frustration.

The final chapter of the book explains current trends and extrapolates them into some interesting predictions. The appendices are valuable to those engaged in genetic or genealogical research. There, you'll find a comprehensive guide to resources (magazines, books, societies, forms, Websites, software), a directory of DNA testing companies and DNA testing products, and a comprehensive glossary. The book is also well-indexed, making it a good reference tool for your bookshelf.

If you are involved in any research into your lineage, Trace Your Roots with DNA is a "must have" book.
95 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Second Best Introductory Book on the Market 6 Aug 2005
By Kevin Campbell - Published on
Genetic genealogy is a blossoming market and the number of books in this space is rapidly growing. Major books include: Seven Daughters of Eve, Adam's Curse, Trace your Roots with DNA, and DNA and Family History.

Professor Bryan Sykes' book The Seven Daughters of Eve was a seminal work. This book focuses on mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) that is passed down the maternal line. This book is written in an easy to read style that creates the tone and tenor of a mystery novel. The punch line of this book is that all maternal lines can be traced back to seven theoretic women who lived at different places in the worlds at different times. This book is very light reading and similar to picking up a pop culture magazine. This book is not recommended other than as the most basic introduction to genetic genealogy. It also suffers from it's minimal discussion of paternal DNA testing (Y-chromosome) which is the most popular form of DNA testing today.

Sykes second book "Adam's Curse" discusses the long term de-evolution of the male chromosome. It's a shame that Sykes has stooped to pandering to sensationalistic popular culture instead in more serious genetic research. Sykes made a name for himself in this space, but it seems that this segment of science has passed him by.

Two excellent introductory books were published in 2004 -- "Trace Your Roots with DNA : Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree" by Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner and "DNA and Family History: How Genetic Testing Can Advance Your Genealogical Research" by Chris Pomery.

In Trace your Roots, Smolenyak, who makes her living as a professional genealogist, branches out into genetics and DNA testing. She hooks up with Ann Turner, the past administrator of a key DNA message list, to create a good introductory book on genetic genealogy. This book covers all the basics for someone who is considering having a DNA test done. I was disappointed that almost half the book (90 out of 235 pages) was dedicated to starting and running a DNA project. I view this material as fluffy filler since most readers aren't likely to need this information.

A similar book is Chris Pomery's "DNA and Family History". This book also covers all the basics in a straightforward and informative way. This book focuses primary on the most popular form of DNA Testing -- testing of the paternal Y-chromosome line. The book includes numerous references to the book's online site ([...] This site is supposed to contain supplementary information but many links don't seem to have been activated.

Pomery does a nice job contrasting genetic families that might be derived from a single ancestor with those that might be derived from multiple ancestors. He also discusses the origins of various classes of surnames which is important in understand this issue. Pomery also uses many examples from surname projects that can be found on the web.

One knock on both books is their minimal discussion of what DNA testing can't do. Neither book elaborates on the limitations of DNA testing for genealogists such as testing inability to definitively identify parents and brother and the small and biased sample sizes that home geneticists are using to make sweeping conclusions. Neither book describes in more than a paragraph or two the lasting thinking about haplogroups -- i.e., the origin of R, E, J, etc. Y-DNA clusters. In addition, neither book will aid the experienced DNA researcher.

My recommendation:

If you looking for one day's worth of beach reading, try Seven Daughters of Eve or Spencer Wells, Journey of Man. Also consider getting these books at the library as these seminal works are quick reads that you don't need cluttering up your shelves.

If you are a serious genealogist or are considering DNA testing or joining the National Geographic Genographics Project, then stick to Smolenyak or Pomery. After reading both, I find them both excellent and roughly equivalent. However, I clearly prefer DNA and Family History by Chris Pomery. The book simply contains more information which is presented in a more straightforward fashion.

Kevin Campbell

Campbell DNA Project Administrator
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative while still being interesting to read 18 Oct 2004
By Harold McFarland - Published on
This is an interesting book that examines the use of DNA to trace your ancestry. With the cost of such testing going down all the time this becomes a reasonable way to determine if you are related to someone or not. The text covers Y chromosome DNA testing to follow the father's side and mtDNA for information on the maternal side. Of course you really need to understand how all of this applies to ancestry and the authors provide an excellent discussion of the various types of DNA tests, what they show, and even places where they can be ordered. This includes a lengthy exposition of ancestry informative markers and their use. Ancestry informative markers allow the tester to determine the percentage of their ancestry that came from a specific area. So, the results of the test might indicate you are 70% Indo-European, 15% Sub-Saharan African, 10% East Asian and 5% Native American. This does not tell you anything about specific ancestors but it does give you an idea of the makeup of your family history. Since you are not going to be able to dig up ancient ancestors and test their DNA to see if you are related, the predominant use of the system at this point seems to be to determine if you are related to someone else who has the same surname (although you may never figure out exactly how) or to determine your ancestry mix with the information markers. This book completely demystifies the use of DNA as a genealogical tool. The appendixes include a glossary, where you can get specific tests performed, places where you can add your results to surname projects, sources for genealogical information, etc. Trace Your Roots with DNA is highly recommended for anyone interested in their ancestry or genealogical research in general.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent contribution in a new subject of growing importance 7 Jun 2007
By Michael K. Smith - Published on
Even a decade ago, "genetic genealogy" barely existed as an almost science-fictional idea. Now, it's one of the most debated topics in our field and thousands of family researchers are involved in projects to identify ancestors through DNA analysis. (I'm in two projects now, myself.) It's a rather complicated subject, though, and for those (like me) who barely scraped through high school biology, the more books for beginners, the better. Smolenyak is a well-known genealogist and lead researcher for the PBS Ancestors series and Turner has become one of the principal popularizers of genetic genealogy on the Internet. The important point is that both have been pursuing family research since the days of manual typewriters and paper library catalogs, and that's the perspective from which they approach the discussion. They explain very clearly why DNA analysis can tell you only who your ancestors *aren't*, not necessarily who they *are*, and the strategic differences between researching your father's and your mother's lineage. They lay out the options and limitations among uncovering ethnic origins (what about that Indian great-grandmother?), global origins (Eastern European? or Scandinavian?), "deep maternal" ancestry (the "daughters of Eve" thing), and even African tribal origins. How do you set up a family or surname research project, attract participants, ensure their trust, and analyze and publish the results? And what do all those numbers in the lab report mean? This is very much a practical book and I strongly recommend it, perhaps in conjunction with Thomas H. Shawker's _Unlocking Your Genetic Heritage_ (2004).
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&quote; and, where you can frequently find excellent state and county-based sites that may house treasures such as searchable archives of marriage indexes or cemeteries for the county your family lived in for a &quote;
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Mark A. Jobling and Chris Tyler-Smith, "The Human Y Chromosome: An Evolutionary Marker Comes of Age" ( JoblingTS. 03. NRG. Review. pdf). &quote;
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These two mutations are the motif for Haplogroup T. The word motif in the DNA context has the same meaning as a motif in art or music, a recurring theme with variations. &quote;
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