So far, I’ve taken just one DNA genealogy test — the saliva test that uses autosomal results from genetic material on nonsex genes. Simply put, my result estimated my ethnicity as 74 percent British, 11 percent Irish and 10 percent Western Europe (German and French, I’m guessing.) I call this “the walking slowly into the pond of genetic” genealogy.
Then there’s Nancy Milliken Mason, an entertaining, informative speaker from southern Maine who is project administrator for the Maine Genealogical Project on Family Tree DNA, known as FTDNA. She gives workshops and conferences and is a speaker for the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. I think of Mason as the genealogist who cannonballs off the high dive board into the ocean of genetic genealogy.
She has taken all three well-known genetic tests for genealogy, including AncestryDNA, which estimates ethnic ancestry and also offers email connections and family tree info on your cousins — most of mine were fourth cousins. Mason also has used Family Tree DNA and 23andme.
Her belief is that using all three gives you the most information. Furthermore, if you take the AncestryDNA test, or 23andme, you can then download the raw data and transfer it to Family Tree DNA and get some free results based on the FTDNA database. Of course, if you want all they have to offer, you would pay something for that.
I have not done this yet with my AncestryDNA results, but I do plan to try it in the next few weeks and will let you know what I think.
Mason also is an advocate of getting as many people as possible from a family, including cousins, etc., to all take the same test to get more information to compare to. With known relatives, it could help you “rule in” some parts of family trees you might see, and “rule out” others as being from the other side of the family, or whatever.
For Mason, there were advantages in jumping into all three companies for testing, and getting relatives to do so, as her grandparents were immigrants, and she has a definite pocket of Scottish ancestry that is documented.
But she also shared with us that those who decide to test should go into it knowing that there are no guarantees, and there may be big surprises. In her case, both she and her husband received results that caused them to have to redo something major in their family trees. She was open about those surprise results, but I think those are for her to share.
Having said that, I also want to point out that Mason has had some success in working with adoptees who wanted to trace their families by using these DNA tests. It’s not necessarily that a person’s parent is in the database, but it’s possible that cousins can be found. And sometimes they may make the path clearer.
There are blogs on DNA, and websites such as isogg.org, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. ISOGG has lots to look at, and it’s easy to get intimidated.
Mason is very informed and can pack a lot of information into one sentence. But you don’t have to understand everything she knows scientifically in order to learn from DNA testing. You could do one test and read what the company sends you for results. If you want to know more, read up on the subject or have someone who has a better grasp of the topic explain it to you.
Mason does consulting, works with adoptees and other searchers and gives workshops.
The Maine Genealogical Society, which had a wonderful state meeting Sept. 19, is looking at offering a one-day program on DNA genealogy next spring. If you are interested, let them know, or let me know and I will pass it on.
I recently had my husband take the AncestryDNA test, which I expect to be strongly Western European, given his Franco-American ancestry. I’ll let you know what we find out.
For myself, I plan to do some reading on the ISOGG site, to check out a blog or two, maybe some books. As I learn more, I will share it with you, hoping not to drag the boat into the weeds, as my dad would put it.
You can reach Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you write to her, I suggest asking a specific question about genealogy.
New genealogy column
I enjoyed Nina Brawn’s column in the Piscataquis Observer for years, and I am thrilled that as she moves on to other things, the column will continue in the able hands of Nancy Battick, former president of the Maine Genealogical Society, regent of Tisbury Manor Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, active member of the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society and the Daughters of Union Veterans. She also compiled with husband Jack Battick the MGS publication “Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine,” a two-volume work plus index.
She is a compelling writer, and I cut out her columns to save. The Observer runs her column twice per month, but it’s not always the same weeks, so I may have to get my own subscription. It will be worth it.
A special flight
Before there was the Honor Flight organization to take veterans to Washington, D.C., Galen Cole had the idea of rounding up a small plane to take 50 or so veterans to see the new World War II Memorial in 2005. But with a 130-passenger plane provided by Pan Am President David Fink and three buses sponsored by Cyr Bus, Cole Land Transportation Museum filled the plane with veterans from World War II to the present, museum volunteers, troop greeters, former Gov. John Baldacci and several members of the press.
My dad was gone by then, so I took his Navy dog tags and took a picture of them held by Tom Hardy, now also deceased, a veteran of nine battles in the Pacific. So many of the veterans on that trip are no longer with us in the traditional sense. They are certainly in my memory. If you would like a list of everyone who went on the trip, let me know.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402, or email email@example.com.