27 December 2009

DNA Testing Solves Mysteries and Brings Family Together, part 1

DNA Testing solves mysteries ...

Although DNA Testing is beneficial to genealogists, others who have tested with the Genographic Project or have tested out of curiosity have become interested in their family history. Many mysteries have been solved through good genealogy research and DNA testing as well, including these with Irish connections:

In 1948 Northwest Flight 4422 crashed in the remote mountains of Alaska. In 1997 the wreckage was found and two years later, a frozen human arm was discovered. Through the use of written documentation, fingerprints, and DNA, the arm was identified out of the thirty sailors on the flight using mitochondrial DNA which is found in every person’s DNA given to them by their mother. Hence, an international investigation began in 2007 by Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick to trace each of the thirty sailors though their female lines to find someone whose DNA would match that of the arm and thus identify the victim. She was able to locate Mr. Conway of Limerick whose mitochondrial DNA matched sailor Frances Joseph Van Zandt.

Thus a fifty year old mystery was solved, and Mr. Conway expressed his pleasure in being able to help and stated on the RTE news video: “I now know where I came from. I now know where I originated, and my, own family and my own children and my grandchildren will know in time where they came from as well.”

Frances Van Zandt Maurice Conway

Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick has solved many other mysteries using DNA testing and forensic techniques. See her Wikipedia bio at:

A shorten version of this story can be found in Irish Roots magazine, 2009, Fourth Quarter, Issue 72, page 20.

Interested in doing a DNA test?

Before ordering a test, understand what DNA testing can and cannot do for you. The following resources are easily accessible and are designed for the beginner in mind.

Web Sites:

Start reading at the beginning of the archives. This blog is designed for the beginner.


Click TUTORIALS on the right
World Families Net - many topics

Genetics & Genealogy - An Introduction
Genetic Genealogy DNA Testing Dictionary
Genetic Genealogy Glossary

The Genetic Genealogist...a blog to follow
Free booklet from Blaine T. Bettineger, Ph.D. (Click on icon to the right)

Wonderful beginners book on Genetic Genealogy:

Family History in the Genes by Chris Pomery
Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner
DNA and Genealogy by Colleen Fitzpatrick and Andrew Yeiser

Follow these easy steps to choosing the correct test.

1. Determine your goals. Are you just curious or are you testing for genealogical purposes? If you are only curious about your most ancient ancestry, order the cheapest test. If you plan to use the results for your genealogy, then order a 37 marker for Ydna and at least the HVR2 for mtDNA.

2. If you are a male you can test both your Y-chromosome dna (the top line; that is, the all male line of your pedigree chart if you are number one on that chart) and your mitochondrial dna (the bottom line or all female line of your pedigree chart). If you are a female you can only test your mitochondrial dna.

3. Matches when testing the Ydna are closer in time. By testing 37 markers, two people who match have a high probability of a common ancestor within the last 300 yrs. However, matches on the mitochondrial dna (mtDNA) can be up to thousands of years ago.

Colleen Fitzpatrick www.forensicgenealogy.info
RTE Video on Flight 2244:

1 Jan 2010

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