While we waited for the results, I tried to find records about these ancestors. I discovered that, contrary to family lore, Burton’s parents could not have disapproved of his marriage because they had died when he was still a child. Moeme’s real name turned out to be Obedience H. Magwier, and I also found out that Uncle Lee could not have known Obedience personally because both she and Burton were dead by the time he was three years old in 1897.
I found considerable circumstantial evidence, however, that Obedience’s grandfather was Dempsey Tiner, whose children and relations claimed Cherokee, Choctaw, or Creek descent, depending upon whose records you read. He was possibly named for an African American freedman, Thomas Dempsey. Dempsey Tiner’s ethnicity, however, would not appear in any mtDNA test, because that genetic material comes only from a female ancestor.
When the results of my father’s mtDNA test finally arrived, we found out that he had three of the four markers for northern European ancestry and none for any race but Caucasian. Other DNA tests taken since then show his ancestry to include people from British, Catalan, Celtic, Gallic, Tuscan, and Viking descent. The results of the original mtDNA test, however, do support that if I have Indian heritage, it does not come through my father’s female (mtDNA) line. Dempsey Tiner, however, who was sometimes spy, patriot, and Tory of the American Revolution, may yet prove to be our link to Native American ancestry.
As DNA testing is refined and improved, currently hidden ethnicity markers in our DNA may be discovered. For more information about DNA testing for genealogical purposes, please see the article “Hiring a DNA Testing Company” at https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Hiring_a_ DNA_Testing_Company. For another great genealogy story about DNA testing, see “Adventures in Genealogy” editor Yvonne Crumpler’s post on our website at alabamaheritage. com/adventures-in-genealogy.
A MESSAGE FROM DEPARTMENT SPONSOR HUDSONALPHA:
Two basic questions lead consumers to DNA testing for ancestry: Where do I come from? Who is in my family?
A variety of DNA ancestry test programs on the market offer to answer both of those questions; however, there are still limitations based on privacy, uptake (the number of people who decide to test), and the tests themselves. On the plus side, some are now bundling information about health risks for genetic disease.
- Where do I come from? To answer that question, ancestry DNA tests compare your DNA markers to those of people living in different places around the world right now. So an answer of “45% Italian” means you are like people living in Italy now and not necessarily the ancient Romans. The information is meaningful to many, but will not answer a true origination query. Both Ancestry.com and 23andMe offer a composition breakdown by percentage.
- Who else is in my family? Once you have DNA results and a number of “matches,” the natural next step is to reach out to those long-undiscovered family members and attempt to forge relationships—or, at the very least, introduce yourself and make your newfound cousin aware of the rest of you. While this is possible through various DNA ancestry programs, the information will not complete or fully build out a family tree for two simple reasons. First, not everyone is DNA-savvy or interested in genealogy; entire portions of the tree may still be undiscovered. Second, many participants prefer to keep their individual family trees hidden on programs such as ancestry.com, so even if you know how many matches you have, you may not be able to access them.
Ancestry.com recently added a new feature that does provide some additional information for users. When you click the “i” that appears next to a match, it will pop up the number of centiMorgans you share with that match. A centiMorgan is a unit used to measure genetic distance. The more centiMorgans you share, the closer the common ancestor.
Genealogy fans who have painstakingly created family histories through research will ultimately find that DNA testing can help fill in some holes. Additionally, some companies are bundling health risk analysis with ancestry information. 23andMe offers carrier status information for specific genetic diseases, including cystic fibrosis, hereditary hearing loss, sickle cell anemia, and others.
Particularly after the holidays, the amount of data available to family match-seekers is likely to see a surge as new tests are purchased and given as gifts within families. As for being able to answer the question “Who am I?”—that ability will continue to evolve.