Thursday, May 11, 2006

Famous DNA: Are You Related to Geo. Washington or Jesse James?

Believe it or not, there's a growing trend in the world of genetic genealogy (which I like to shorten to genetealogy) to use DNA testing to confirm or refute tales of famous relatives. Genetealogy is largely a matchmaking game -- you compare your results to those of others (and fortunately, just as with conventional genealogy, there are databases that do most of the work for you).

So when it comes to evaluating possible famous connections, the key is obtaining DNA samples to represent the famous individual -- so that others can compare against this "standard." For instance, there's a concerted effort underway now to test direct-line, male descendants of a known ancestor of George Washington. Normally, you would try to find a descendant of the person of interest, but since GW doesn't have male descendants of his own, it was necessary to go further back in the family tree to find an appropriate line to trace "back to the future."

And guess what? Two such DNA samples have now been obtained! Go see for yourself at the Washington DNA Project. If you've already been tested -- and especially if your surname is Washington -- whip out your results and go see if you match, or at least, come fairly close to the results presented.

Have a tale in your family about some other famous connection? Well, then check out the International Society of Genetic Genealogy's Famous DNA page. For that matter, take a little time and explore the other resources offered by ISOGG. If you have any interest in genetealogy at all, I promise it will be time well spent.

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