Saturday, October 27, 2007

Will DNA Solve My Mysteries?

When Jasia announced this topic for the 35th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, I started to think about what I know about DNA. When I think about DNA my mind goes to genetic testing for medical screening. I had to read up on DNA and genealogy.

So what mysteries in my family tree might DNA solve?

To test my own DNA I could only look at mtDNA. I have only traced the line as far as my great grandmother. I know her father was Irish but I have no idea about her mother. As I understand mtDNA, all I can hope to learn is which haplogroup I belong to. Interesting maybe, but it certainly won't help me fill in my tree.

The Y-DNA test might offer me some answers to other mysteries. I have traced my paternal line to early nineteenth century England. Berry is a fairly common name and there are questions as to which line to follow. If my brother or my nephew was willing to provided their DNA I could have it tested. I would then need to find male descendants of the several possible Berry's and have them tested for comparison. This would be cost prohibitive for me to undertake on my own. If someone were to start a one name study for Berry it might be worth getting my brother to participate and see if any others in the study were a match.

This method could also be used to break down one of my most frustrating brick walls. My gr-gr-great-grandfather was William Wisner. He recorded his birth date in his bible as 27 Mar 1783. Various census records indicate that he was born in either PA or NY with PA being the front runner. The first actual record I have found for him placed him in Onondaga County, NY in 1812. Based on circumstantial evidence I believe he was the son of Ananias Wisner b. 1757 which leads to another wall. There were two Wisner families in PA at the time that I am looking at. The line that I believe I descend from goes back to Johannes Wisner, b 1676 in Switzerland, who settled in Orange Co., NY. If I could test a male direct line descendant of William's and compare the results to descendants of Johannes' I should be able to prove or disprove my theory. I don't know if testing would prove a relationship to Ananias specifically, assuming I could find descendants to be tested.

I do have one mystery that I'd really love to be able to solve through DNA but I have no idea if it is possible. My gr-great-grandfather, Michael Camfield came to New York as an indentured servant. According to family legend he came with his parents, a brother and a sister. The family was split up and Michael spent his seven years on a farm in upstate New York. The name Camfield was given to him by the farmer because it sounded more American. The original family name is thought to have been something similar to Cumfeldt. I have not been able to find any records based on any possible spelling I can think of, or through soundex, that might help me. Is there (or do you think there ever will be) a national data base where results of misc. samples can be compared and I therefore might get lucky? Perhaps a data base kept by nationality? Is there some other way DNA could help me solve this mystery?

I look forward to any suggestions Blaine Bettinger might have for me as host of the 35th edition of the COG.


Nikki - Notes of Life said...

It's a difficult one. I'm not sure how DNA would help me either... plus it's an expensive business. However, I am looking forward to what everyone else has to say on the matter ar the COG.

Luke Broersma said...

I've been wanting to test my father-in-law's y DNA. He is a direct male descendant of William Wisner thru George Wisner, Sara Camfield's brother. It would take finding another direct male descendant from Johannes Weesner who took a y DNA test to confirm.