Wednesday, 26 September 2007

DNA project

On Friday I went to an illuminating talk by Chris Pomeroy on the subject of DNA testing for family historians. Chris is a fellow member of the Guild of One-Name Studies. He has pioneered the use of DNA in genealogy and is the author of DNA and Family History. Fellow researcher David Cruse was also at the talk. We were both inspired by the presentation and are now convinced of the need to set up a project for the Cruwys/Cruys/Cruse/Crewes surname. DNA testing will not provide all the answers but will be a useful pointer for further research and we hope that it will help to break down some of our brick walls.

I have started to make initial enquiries about setting up a project with Family Tree DNA, the largest DNA testing company in the world with the largest database on the market. DNA projects have already been registered with this company for three similar surnames which might or might not be related: Kruse of Denmark, Crews/Screws in the USA and Cruise of Ireland. The company provide the facility for results to be checked with existing results on their database. If two people have identical or near identical results they will inform both parties, provided that both people have signed the appropriate release form. Crews researchers in America were surprised to discover that they were genetically related to people with the surname Screws.

The DNA test used for genealogical purposes is the Y-DNA test. The Y-chromosome is handed down unchanged from father to son except for the occasional mutation. Therefore only men who are directly descended in the male line are eligible. (The family at Cruwys Morchard in Devon are descended in the female line through Harriet Sharland née Cruwys (1771-1847) and so cannot be tested for the purposes of this study.) The Y-DNA test examines a series of markers on the Y-chromosome, each of which is assigned a numerical code. People with an identical or near identical sequence of matching marker numbers will share a common male ancestor.

The test itself is quite harmless and very quick and easy to do. Each sample is assigned a unique number, and the testing facility do not have access to any names. DNA is tested only for the specified number of genealogical markers. The test cannot be used for legal purposes such as establishing paternity or involvement in a crime, and will not provide an indicator of a genetic predisposition to a particular disease. The cost of the test varies according to the number of markers. Family Tree DNA are currently offering four different tests for 12, 25, 37 and 67 markers, and the pricing is structured accordingly. The 37-marker test is recommended to provide sufficient information to identify the time frame to the common ancestor and to identify possible major branches in the ancestral tree. It takes around seven weeks to receive the results of the tests.

Once the project is up and running it will then be a question of finding suitable candidates to be tested. David Cruse and Pieter Cruse have already indicated that they would be willing to be tested, and I'm hoping that we will be able to recruit many more people. If anyone is interested please get in touch and I will endeavour to answer your questions. In the meantime watch this space! I've provided below a selection of links to websites which provide further information on the subject for those who are interested:

Family tree DNA

Oxford Ancestors

World Families Net

The Sorensen Foundation

The Genographic Project

DNA of famous people

The Journey of Man video on You Tube

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