How You Find It
Start with yourself. Think about genealogy as solving a mystery. When solving a mystery, you should always go from the known into the unknown. Record as much information about yourself as possible (such as your name, date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, etc.). Then, write down the same information about your parents and your grandparents. Continue to write down known information for as many generations as you can. You can use a pedigree chart to record the information. A pedigree chart is a chart which lists you and all of your known ancestors.
Pedigree Chart Fun Trivia: Pedigree is a version of the French “pied de grue” which means crane’s foot. This association was made because the splits on the family lines, leading to different offspring, look like the leg and foot of a crane.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a great place to start researching your ancestors.
|Tennessee State Library and Archives, 2007, Private Collection Photograph by William M. Thomas||Tennessee State Library and Archives Reading Room, 1953, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection|
THE HISTORY OF LAST NAMES
Discovering the meaning and origin of your last name can lead to important clues about your family history. A surname, also known as a last name or family name, is a fixed name shared in common with the members of a family and passed down from generation to generation. As large communities developed, there arose a need to adopt fixed names in order to legally and clearly distinguish numerous individuals with the same given name. The knowledge of ancestral naming practices can help trace your families back to a country of origin, or even to a specific village or locale.
Surnames originate from many sources. Some common surname origins are:
- Patronymic – Basing the surname on the father’s given name (i.e. “Williamson” is a derivative of “William’s son”).
- Matronymic – Basing the surname on the mother’s given name (i.e. “Helguson” is a derivative of “Helga’s son”).
- Geographic – Basing the surname on a locale, village, country, or geographic feature (i.e. “Flanders,” “York,” “Britain,” and “Hill”).
- Occupation – Basing the surname on a person’s profession (i.e. “Smith” for metalworkers, “Cooper” for barrel makers, and “Fletcher” for arrow makers).
- Religious – Basing the surname on a person’s religion by denoting particular denominations or religious vocations (i.e. “Kirkpatrick” for “the Church of Patrick” and “Bishop” for a relative who was a bishop).
- Descriptive – Basing the surname on an individual’s physical or personality traits (i.e. “Armstrong,” “Short,” and “Goodman.”)
- Combinations – Basing the surname on combinations of other words or names.
Researching surnames can be difficult as areas of the world adopted the use of surnames at various times and many cultures developed different accepted naming conventions. In some cases, individuals were simply assigned a surname when one was needed; such as the practice of slaves taking their masters’ surname or recently transplanted immigrants using “naturalized” surnames to become more assimilated with their adoptive country. Surname spelling and pronunciation has also evolved over centuries as spelling conventions changed and names were passed from language to language. For example the name “Johnson” could be spelled “Janson,” “Jonson,” “Jonsson,” or “Johannsson” depending on the language and literacy of the individual writing it. It is likely that your surname was not always spelled the way it is today.
Researching the meaning behind your surname can be as much fun as researching your family history and can add volumes to your understanding of who your ancestors were and where they came from.
INTERNET RESOURCES FOR GENEALOGY RESEARCH
When you first begin your genealogy research, it is very common to encounter obstacles. These obstacles can include verifications of dates, correct spellings of names, locations, etc. The Internet offers resources that can aid in solving some of the problems you may encounter. It is important to remember that much information online is inaccurate. Among other things, surnames are commonly misspelled and dates are recorded incorrectly. However, the Internet can provide beneficial stepping stones in your research.
Here is a very incomplete listing of resources available on the Internet that our patrons frequently use:
- TEL – http://tntel.tnsos.org/ – An online virtual library of tens of millions of documents. Tennessee residents have access to TEL through the TSLA website, academic institutions, public libraries, and schools.
- National Archives & Records Administration – http://www.archives.gov/genealogy
- Footnote.com – http://www.footnote.com/ – A subscription site for historical documents from various archives.
- Ancestry.com – http://www.ancestry.com/ – One of the largest family history sites online [mostly subscription].
- RootsWeb.com – http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ – A free sub-site of Ancestry.com.
- Genealogy.org – http://www.genealogy.org/ – A sub-site of Ancestry.com.
- Heritage Quest Online – http://www.heritagequestonline.com/ – Search census records, books, and various other documents.
- Cyndislist.com – http://www.cyndislist.com/ – A clearinghouse of online genealogical resources.
- FamilySearch.org – http://www.familysearch.org/ – A free genealogical site provided by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints.
- USGenWeb – http://www.usgenweb.org/ – A site for free online genealogical resources.
- Genealogy.com – http://www.genealogy.com/ – A subscription based site.
Computer help, 2009,
Photograph by William M. Thomas
It is impossible to list all of the various types of records which are available online, but here are a few that are extremely useful:
- Social Security Death Index – The SSDI contains information on deceased individuals with United States social security numbers. Once deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration, the individual is added to the index. Information in these records include date of birth, date of death, and last known residence.
- Census Records – Census records are not released until 72 years after the census was taken. Currently, records are available from 1790 to 1930 but you will have to purchase the information.
- Military Records – There are extensive collections of many types of military records that range from the Revolutionary War through the Persian Gulf War.
- Tennessee Records – Tennessee marriage, divorce, and Bible records are available from 1780 to 2002.
TALK WITH LIVING FAMILY MEMBERS
Head into the unknown by gathering information from living family members. You can do this by interviewing them, snail mail, email, etc. When interviewing, it is nice to make an audio or video recording of the interview for future generations. When talking to family members, you may find that someone else is doing research on the same family. Take other family members’ research with a grain of salt. Unless they have documents to prove the lineage they have, don’t depend on it. Use it only as a jumping off spot to point you in the right direction with your own research. Ask family members if you can make copies of anything they have pertaining to the family (i.e. photographs, marriage license, birth and death certificates, deeds, family Bible records, obituaries, memorial cards from funerals, letters, military discharge papers, baby books, etc.). When talking to family members, make sure to fill out a Family Group Chart for each branch of the family.
Since weddings are important events in people’s lives, you will probably discover many wedding photographs among your family’s photographs. This photograph shows Laura Barbour Howe in her wedding gown. She married Dr. Dudley Cobb Pilcher (1904-1929), a Nashville neurosurgeon.
Colonel William Clinton Tatom
and his staff at
Reelfoot Lake on
an expedition against
Night Riders, 1908,
Archives Photograph Collection
Reelfoot Lake is believed to have been formed during the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812. It is a popular legend that the Mississippi River flowed backward for almost 24 hours to fill the lake. The locals in the area believed the lake was public territory and many made a living from fishing there. A group of people quietly bought up old claims to the shoreline and formed the West Tennessee Land Company. The West Tennessee Land Company wanted to drain at least part of the lake and use the land to grow cotton. They began to enforce their ownership rights and kept locals from fishing in the area. In 1908, the Night Riders (made up mostly of locals who made their living from fishing the lake) began to enforce vigilante justice over a portion of Obion County. The masked horsemen created a reign of terror that lasted seven months. Governor Malcolm Patterson stepped in and arrived at Reelfoot Lake with the Tennessee National Guard. Nearly one hundred suspects were imprisoned in a makeshift camp set up by the Guard. The suspects were treated severely and two died while awaiting trial. Most of the public supported the Night Riders; so, the state purchased the lake in 1914 to end the threat of private ownership.
PRIMARY VERSUS SECONDARY SOURCES
Documenting sources of genealogical information is an important part of genealogical research. There are two basic types of genealogical resources – Primary Records and Secondary Resources.
Primary Records are documents created soon after or during an event by an eyewitness. These records can include official documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, or immigration passenger lists. Other primary sources include diaries written immediately after an event, video and audio recordings of events, and, at times, family bibles.
Secondary resources are sources created or compiled well after the event. They can include published family histories, letters that mention an event well after it occurred, and compiled genealogies found on the internet. Secondary sources can be accurate but, without proper documentation of the primary sources from which they were derived, should be accepted with caution.
Many primary sources can also function as secondary sources. For example, a death certificate can function as a primary source for death information and as a secondary source for birth information. While a death certificate often includes birth information, it is usually provided by people who were not present at the birth. This information, because it is of a secondary nature, should be checked against available primary sources. In certain situations, primary sources may be inaccessible or non-existent. In those cases researchers must rely on secondary sources to provide needed information.
Whatever the resource used, clear and specific documentation of sources can aid the researcher in recalling origins of information. Precise documentation also allows family members and future researchers to re-trace the original researcher’s steps thereby assuring them of the validity of the compiled genealogical information.
A photograph of a football player and a related newspaper article might be something you discover among your family’s photographs. After doing some research, you would discover that the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team not only went undefeated during the 1939 season, their opponents did not score a single point against them that year. During the 10 regular season games that year, they outscored their opponents 212-0. You would also learn that Johnny Butler was a tailback on that team and that he was responsible for one of the greatest plays in UT football history – a 56-yard run against the University of Alabama on October 21, 1939.
LOOK FOR RECORDS
- Always try to find primary sources. Authors will make mistakes; so, it is always best to go to the original record if possible.
- Always remember to try different spellings of names.
- Make copies of all primary sources documents. Record your source on the back of the document (include title, date, page, repository where the document was found, etc).
- Examples of useful records: census records, mortality schedules, voter registrations, slave census schedules, vital records (birth and death certificates), county records, probate records, chancery court records, civil court records, criminal court records, county court records, marriage records, divorce records, school records, minutes, tax books, military records, land records, wills, adoption records, newspapers, city directories, phone books, church records (such as membership rolls, baptism records and funeral/burial information), school/college records, family Bible, diaries, letters, photographs, engraved jewelry, lodge records, insurance papers, social security documents, employment records, biographies and historical accounts, cemetery records, Immigration records, Freeman records, land grants, maps, passenger lists, pensions and slave records.
Robert Whyte was a lawyer and Tennessee Supreme Court judge. As a Supreme Court judge, he wrote many of the court’s opinions and “his opinions commanded great respect, though he was a literalist, and laid great stress on technicalities.” Despite his connections to many prominent Tennesseans of the period and his service as a judge, however, Robert Whyte’s role in Tennessee’s history has been largely forgotten.
ADOPTION RECORDS IN TENNESSEE
As of July 1, 1996, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is able, under provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated §36-1-127 (c), to provide access to Tennessee adoption records created on or after March 16, 1951. The persons eligible to request access are:
- The adopted person 21 years of age or older
- The adopted person's birth/adoptive/step or legal parent 21 years of age or older
- The adopted person's birth or adoptive siblings 21 years of age or older
- The adopted person's lineal ancestors 21 years of age or older
- The adopted person's lineal descendants 21 years of age or older
- The legal representatives of any of these persons
For more information, call the office of Post Adoption Services at (615) 532-5637 or visit their website:
Typically, people working on their genealogy want to find out everything they can about their ancestors (what they looked like, what organizations they belonged to, what religion they were, etc.). These items are examples of the different types of things you might be able to find for one individual.
Ben Clay Espey
Ben Clay Espey was born Jan. 28, 1924 and died April 15, 1944. He was the son of Ben King Espey and Nannie Mae Windrow Espey. At the age of 16, he received his private pilot’s license. He was a member of McKendree Methodist Church and attended Duncan Preparatory School. After his graduation from Duncan Preparatory School in 1940, he attended the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. While attending the University of the South at Sewanee, he received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan scholarship and was a member of the Beta Theta chapter of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, the German club and the golf club. During his junior year (1942) at the University of the South, he volunteered as an aviation cadet and in December of 1942, he was called into active duty. He was stationed for a time in both North Africa and Southern Italy. While stationed in Italy, he was the cartoonist for the 15th Air Force’s paper and fashioned the character “Sir Donald McAce”. He served in combat service with the 15th Air Force and participated in air offensives over the Balkans, Austria, Germany, Romania and Italy. He was killed on April 15, 1944 while returning from a bombing mission over the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. At the time of his death, he was working as a tail gunner on a B-17 bomber, Flying Fortress, and was attacked by German fighter planes. Sgt. Espey’s parachute was seen, by the crew members of other aircraft participating in the mission, falling toward the front of his plane. It was thought for a time that he might have survived the attack and was listed as missing in action. On May 20, 1944, the War Department notified his parents that he had actually been killed during the confrontation with the German fighter planes. His remains were found and returned to Tennessee in 1950. His funeral and burial took place on March 23, 1950. He is buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville, Tennessee. He received several medals and honors including the Air Corps Citation, the Purple Heart, a Presidential Citation, and the Air Medal.
GO TO THE CEMETERY
Cemeteries and gravestones can provide important clues to the lives of your ancestors and your family heritage. There are several types of cemeteries: family, private, church, city, county, and national. It can sometimes be difficult to determine which cemeteries inter our ancestors, but there exist many resources to aid your search. Checking vital statistics for a death certificate is a good place to start. Obituaries can provide this information. Family churches with cemeteries may also keep records. Family Bibles can be an excellent record of private burials as they were used to document births, marriages, and deaths before standardized public record-keeping. Once the individual or monument you are seeking is located you may also find other family members within the same cemetery.
Cemetery engravings are art in the truest sense of the word. Gravestones can tell us full names, birth and death dates, occupations, nationalities, and religious traditions. Markers can also display symbols associated with cultural traditions, organizational and military affiliations, and may even display personal artwork. There are many ways to document them for your family records. You can take pictures, do gravestone rubbings, or take a video of the area. It is easy to appreciate the beauty and workmanship found in these intricate designs but interpreting their symbols can be challenging. Though it may involve quite a bit of research, uncovering the meaning behind your family’s gravestones can be very rewarding because when you interact with the grave markers of your ancestors, you can almost feel the presence of your past.
HOW TO DO A GRAVESTONE RUBBING
Gravestone rubbing is the practice of obtaining a relief impression of lettering, carving, or designs from the surface of a tombstone on paper using graphite, crayon, charcoal, or similar medium. It is an excellent method for collecting epitaphs and other tombstone sculptures for inclusion in family histories. The utmost respect and care must be used when working on a gravestone’s surface. Knowing the correct way to handle the materials and stones will yield the best rubbing results and preserve the grave marker for future generations.
- Paper - Most rubbings are done on white paper. Rice papers, Aquaba (a synthetic rice paper), vellum tissue, or even cloth will all work well and are easily found at craft stores. To ensure the rubbing will be complete, always cut paper larger than the area to be rubbed.
- Medium – Pencils, charcoal, and conte crayons can make effective rubbings and can be found at most art and craft stores. Lumber Crayons, large wax-like crayons used for marking wood, stone, and metal will also work and can be found at most hardware stores. A clear matte spray finish can be used to prevent smearing.
- Soft-bristle brush – To clean debris off the stone face.
- Masking or drafting tape – Used to attach the paper to the stone leaving no adhesive.
- Scissors – To cut or trim paper and/or tall grass around base of stone.
- Cardboard tube – To store paper and finished prints.
- Pencil & Notepad – To record information about the stone and cemetery.
Researching genealogy for African-Americans presents unique challenges.
All genealogy should begin with one’s living family and build backward from what is known or believed to be known by one’s own relatives. Once a researcher has exhausted the knowledge of family members the use of family bibles, vital statistics (such as records of marriages, births, and deaths), newspapers, church records, census records, and military records all prove invaluable to the aspiring African-American genealogist.
Researching slavery records can be more challenging but employs the same methods as researching any other public or private record. Frequently the ownership of slaves was recorded and the sale or exchange of slaves from one owner to another was well-documented. Genealogists can mine numerous resources, such as wills of slave owners which state what happened to slaves after their owners died; deeds and bills of sale that often state the name and condition of slaves sold or given from one owner to another; and court and tax records which can include inventories of slave owners’ property and may often include the names of individual slaves and their owners.
Equally rewarding can be visits to plantation homes or slave cemeteries. Discovering where one’s ancestors lived and worked or where they were finally laid to rest can be an experience far beyond that which can be felt by merely seeing their lives on the printed page.
Prior to European intervention most Native-American family heritage was passed verbally from generation to generation. As the influence of Europeans began to impact Native-American culture and settlers relocated tribes to reservations, more complete, traceable records were created that can aid a researcher in finding their Native-American lineage.
Like other genealogical research, the genealogist should begin with themselves and their family. Searching court records, newspapers, vital statistics, census records, and military records will yield valuable information. If a link to Native-American heritage is discovered there exist several resources that can be used to get a more complete record of one’s family history. In Tennessee, where the Cherokee were the primary tribe, numerous records are available. Starting in 1817 the US Government began keeping records of Cherokee as they were relocated west. The Reservation Rolls, Emigration Rolls, Henderson Roll, Siler Roll, Dawes Roll, Miller Roll, and Baker Roll are only some of the records available that list the Cherokee and families entitled to tracts of land in accordance with numerous treaties with the Federal Government. These rolls can prove extremely useful as they provide the names of Cherokee proving their Native American heritage and can include the names of generations of ancestors and descendents.
As is the case with any genealogical research, visiting sites can help shed new light on one’s ancestors. Much of the United States is rich with Native-American locales such as cemeteries, village recreations, and of course reservations. Visits to these sites can help demonstrate how Native-American heritage and culture continues into the present day.
Once you have started tracing your heritage, there are many societies you might be interested in joining. Probably the most well-known are the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Did you know there are versions of these organizations for men, specifically, The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and Sons of Confederate Veterans?
Here are some of the more well-known groups:
1) The Colonial Dames of America (CDA): The website of the CDA (www.colonialdamesofamerica.org) says they are “an international society of women members whose direct ancestors held positions of leadership in the Thirteen Colonies.” The organization was founded in 1890. There are 32 CDA chapters, scattered all over the world, including London, England; Paris, France; and Rome, Italy. The Nashville, Tennessee, chapter was affiliated in 1926 as the 7thchapter. It is the only chapter in Tennessee. Each chapter supports special projects ranging anywhere from historic home preservation to education programs in day care centers. Nashville’s chapter project is an index of portraits in Tennessee.
2) The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA): The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, founded in 1891, “promotes national heritage through historic preservation, patriotic service and educational projects.” The NSCDA “is an unincorporated association of 44 Corporate Societies with over 15,000 members.” The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in Tennessee was chartered July 7, 1896. Since 1954, the NSCDA has held the house and grounds of Travellers Rest (http://www.travellersrestplantation.org/) in Nashville as a public trust. For more information on the NSCDA consult their website: http://www.nscda.org.
3) Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War (DUV): Organized on May 30, 1885, the DUV held their first meeting on June 3, 1885. Endorsed by the GAR (see SUVCW below), members are women and girls over the age of eight who are lineal (not adopted) descendants of “honorably discharged soldiers and sailors who served in the Union Army, Navy or Marine Corps and Revenue Cutter Service during the Rebellion of 1861-1865, and those who died or were killed while serving in the armed services of the Union between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1965,” according to their website, www.duvcw.org . Local groups are organized into “tents,” so-called for Army nurses who served in the Civil War “or any loyal woman of the Civil War era,’ with three or more tents making a State Department. The Tennessee tents include: 1) The Mary Ann Bickerdyke Tent #2 in Selmer, organized October 26, 1996. 2) The Lucinda Heatherly Tent #3 in Knoxville, organized April 21, 2001, and 3) The Major Belle Reynolds Tent #4 in Jackson, organized May 5, 2001.
4) The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR): According to their website (www.dar.org) the DAR was founded on October 11, 1890 by four women who were frustrated at not being allowed to join men’s groups that had been organized to perpetuate the memories of their ancestors who had fought to make the United States free from England. Membership is open to any woman over the age of 18 who can document she is descended from someone who assisted in achieving American independence. Documentation of birth, marriage and death must be provided for each ancestor leading back to the original patriot. Eligible patriots include: Signers of the Declaration of Independence; Military Service in the Continental armed forces or in the French forces who fought in the American colonies for American Independence; Civil Service such as state and local government officials under the Provisional Authority of the new government; or Patriotic Service, such as members of the Continental Congress, Boston Tea Party, etc. For more information, contact your local chapter. There are chapters in every state and the District of Columbia. Tennessee has 103 chapters, with several cities having multiple chapters. There are also overseas chapters in Australia; Austria; the Bahamas; Bermuda; Canada; France; Germany; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Spain; and the United Kingdom.
5) The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR): The Sons of Revolutionary Sires was founded was founded in 1876, the Centennial of the American Revolutionary War. On April 30, 1889, the 100thAnniversary of George Washington’s Inauguration, the SAR grew out of that organization. According to their website (www.sar.org), membership is open to those who can “trace their family tree back to a point of having an ancestor who supported the cause of American Independence during the years 1774-1783.” There are over 500 SAR chapters in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. For the Tennessee chapter contact: Rick D. Hollis, Secretary, PO Box H, Charlotte, TN 37036; e-mail: email@example.com .
Sons of Confederate
Veterans Historical Marker
in Memphis, 2009,
photographs by Lori Lockhart
6) Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV): According to their website (www.scv.org) the SCV is “the direct heir of the United Confederate Veterans, and the oldest hereditary organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers.” The SCV was organized in Richmond, VA in 1896. Membership is open to “all male descendants of any veteran who served honorably in the Confederate armed forces.” Contact information for the Executive Director of the International Headquarters Staff Is: Sons of Confederate Veterans, PO Box 59, Columbia, TN 38402; Phone: (800) 380-1896 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
7) Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW): Organized to carry on the work of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) after the demise of the GAR membership (restricted to individuals who had served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Revenue Cutter Service during the Civil War) the SUVCW was formed in 1881. According to their website, http://www.suvcw.org , “membership is open to any man who could prove ancestry to a member of the GAR or to a veteran eligible for membership in the GAR. In later years, men who did not have the ancestry to qualify for hereditary membership, but who demonstrated a genuine interest in the Civil War and could subscribe to the purpose and objectives of the SUVCW, have been admitted as Associates.” The Tennessee Department of the SUVCW includes Alabama, and the Department Commander is: Kenneth V. Early, 109 Hidden Circle, Rainbow City, AL 35906; Phone: (256) 442-1693; email@example.com .
United Daughters of the
Confederacy, 1900, Library
This photograph was
taken in Jackson, Tennessee.
8) United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC): The UDC’s website (http://www.hqudc.org/) states that the UDC was organized right here in Nashville, TN on September 10, 1894, and is “an outgrowth of two statewide organizations that came into existence as early as 1890 -- the Daughters of the Confederacy (DOC) in Missouri and the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Confederate Soldiers Home in Tennessee.” Originally known as the National Association of the Daughters of the Confederacy, they officially became the UDC at their second meeting. Membership is open to women over the age of 16 “who are blood descendants, lineal or collateral, of men and women who served honorably in the Army, Navy or Civil Service of the Confederate States of America, or gave Material Aid to the Cause.” Contact the UDC Business Office at: 328 North Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220-4009; Phone (804) 355-1636.
Everyone hates being stopped dead in their tracks, especially genealogists. However, the nature of tracing your roots suggests that you will run into the proverbial brick wall at one time or another. If you find yourself stumped when researching your ancestors, genealogical DNA testing could be the lift you need to get you over the hump.
In 1998, results of DNA tests, conducted by Dr. Eugene Foster, linked the African American descendents of Sally Hemings to Thomas Jefferson. While the DNA could not conclusively prove that Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings son, Eston Hemings, it showed that Eston Hemings carried the same y-chromosome as the proven descendents of Field Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson’s uncle).
This use of DNA testing for the purposes of genealogical research proved to be the inspiration for several companies to start offering genealogical DNA testing for a fee. Three of the most popular companies are:
- Family Tree DNA - http://www.familytreedna.com or (713) 868-1438
- Ancestry.com - http://dna.ancestry.com or (800) 958-9124
- National Geographic’s The Genographic Project - https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com
The process of DNA testing is fairly easy. The DNA testing company, that you use, will send you a kit. You then swab the insides of your checks and send the sample back to the company. The company will send you the results of your DNA tests. Some of the companies will just send you a map with the locations of your ancestors pinpointed, while others maintain a database of names and contact information to send to you if you would like to contact genetic matches.
Family Tree DNA Certificate
for Wayne N. Sutherland,
2006, Private Collection
courtesy of Laine Sutherland
DNA testing can become expensive, especially if you have both kinds of DNA testing (mitochondrial and y-chromosome) done. Mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, is passed from the mother to all of her offspring. Men can not pass on mtDNA. If you have your mtDNA tested, the results will yield your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother and so on back. Y-chromosomes are only present in males; so, y-chromosome DNA follows the male line. It will yield your father’s father’s father’s father and so on. Women can only trace their mtDNA trail while men can trace both their mtDNA and y-chromosome DNA. If women would like to trace the y-chromosome in their family, they could have their brother, father, cousin (who is a son of their father’s brother) or uncle (who is their father’s brother) tested.