GUTH/GUTT/GOOD NEWSLETTER #29    March/April 2001
Leon J. Mertensotto, Editor
Leon.J.Mertensotto.1@nd.edu
 

Ed GAULIN <ehgaulin@worldnet.att.net> of Bradenton, FL, currently President of the Manasota Genealogical Society, shares with us a report on Genetics and Genealogy.

The genealogical community is "abuzz" with terms like molecular genealogy, DNA, genetics, Y- chromosome, mtDNA, and a number of others that I still don't understand. They are calling this the DNA Revolution and the "Next Big Thing" in the field of genealogy. Most expect that it will alter our approach to traditional research methods in the near future.

I share their enthusiasm and I recognize the enormous potential in this brand new field that has struck our hobby with a vengeance. However, whether it will replace the things we have been doing successfully for years or not is a matter for conjecture. That being said, I believe that
sufficient information is now available to recommend that subscribers/contributors to the GGG Newsletter seriously consider participation in some form of DNA testing to solidly document their
ancestry.

Having been a subscriber on behalf of my wife, a GUTH descendant from almost the beginning five years ago, I have read every great issue published and met, electronically, a number of great people All have one thing in common, an interest in the surnames GUTH/GUTT/GOOD. It may now be time to prove the relationships that have filled the pages of this wonderful newsletter for years.

Last month (Feb. 2001) I was one of the organizers who brought the Molecular Genealogy Research Group (MGRG) of Brigham Young University (BYU) of Provo, UT to West Central Florida. The collaboration of 4 genealogy societies, 2 LDS Family History Centers, and a several smaller genealogical organizations attracted the interest of almost 1,500 people in our area.

All these interested genealogists were willing to provide a small (10cc) blood sample and a 4-generation ancestral chart to participate in the BYU DNA Study. There was significant attrition primarily because prospective participants were unable to provide full details concerning the birth of their grand parents and great grandparents - an essential element of the study. Nevertheless, almost 900 participants were enrolled.

The background and goals of the study are detailed on the MGRG web site: http://molecular-genealogy.byu.edu.

In preparation for participation in this study, the organizers were exposed to a considerable volume of recent research in the field of genetics, especially as it involves genealogy. Some of the more interesting aspects concerned the involvement of family associations (one-name groups) and the effort of family historians to refine or define their knowledge of their progenitors.

An article in the New York Times in April 2000 might have fueled some of the enthusiasm in these groups. A British researcher, Dr. Brian Sykes of Oxford University, founded a company after he proved that a number of men named Sykes from various places in England had a common ancestor who lived in the 14th century. He accomplished this by extracting the DNA from a swab that the men had rubbed on the inside of their mouths. The Y-chromosome (Y-cr) resides in the nucleus of cells of all men, but not in women, and passes almost unchanged from generation to generation.

Dr. Sykes believes that he can obtain similar results from men in a number of other English families.

You may have also read about the geneticists who established that a 44-year old male school teacher now living near Cheddar in Southern England is a descendant of the famous Cheddar Man, a 9,000 year old skeleton found years ago near that same village.

That relationship was proved by using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), a product of human cells which is passed only by the female, but exists in members of both sexes. The test for mtDNA clearly defines the maternal ancestry of an individual. In this case it proved that the mother of the Cheddar Man and the mother of the school teacher are directly related.

Family historians have quickly embraced these recent genetic developments to answer some of the questions that have been plaguing one-name groups for years:

1. Are we descended from a single male ancestor or are there several?
2. Where did he (they) live?
3. Are differences in the spelling of the surnames relevant?
4. Was my grandfather adopted?

Several family associations have already undertaken DNA testing of their members and have results. Some of the surnames are HOWERY (VA, PA, GER), MUMMA (US, CAN, GER), POMEROY (ENG, WAL, IRE), SAVIN (ENG), SYKES (ENG), and WALKER (VA). All employed the Y-chromosome test that exclusively tracks the male line of descent. None are known to have opted for mtDNA testing to establish maternal lines, perhaps because of the expense. Typical Y- chromosome testing costs from $100 to $300 and takes 6 to 8 weeks.

Obviously the larger the sampling the more accurate and useful are the results. That's why this informal GUTH/GUTT/GOOD group of several hundred Genealogists is important. One hundred participants would provide a wealth of information; those mentioned above all had less than 70. Nor should females discouraged because a brother, father or other male relative may produce the same results.

Is anyone interested? Check the above-mentioned web site for additional information on time and location across the country when the project invites participants.