In 2007, my dad decided to get a DNA test done to possibly assist with his genealogy research and to find out the source of his paternal heritage. There are a number of websites that sends you a kit to submit a few microscopic chromosomes, then you mail it to a scientist who compares it with others to analyze your genetic makeup. The cost for my father was right around $200 dollars, the prices have come down since then. There are more detailed and more expensive DNA tests that can be done, but he just stuck with the basic one.
As of 2007, men were the main candidates because it traces the straight paternal side, which is conveniently linked with a consistent last name. For some family genealogists, they mainly focus on studying that one last name and tracing it as far back as possible, so this test can be more appealing and revealing. These days the maternal information can be just as informative.
With my own genealogy research, I have acquired a fair number of generations, but there are still a few elusive ones out there. To give you an idea of how fast ancestors multiply – if you go back 24 generations, you have a total of 16 million ancestors.
Now the only way for this project to work is for others with the same last name to submit their DNA – so there is something to compare it to. Since Lee is a fairly common last name, there have been many others who have submitted their DNA for the project. There is a large group of collected DNA for those trying to link themselves ancestrally to the famous Lee’s of Virginia, which include Robert E. Lee and ‘Lighthorse’ Harry Lee.
We have been stumped for a long time with our Lee ancestor who appeared in Maryland, not far from the Lee’s of Virginia in the late 1700’s. He married a French woman, probably a French trader’s daughter, then he immigrated to Indiana in the early 1800’s.
When the DNA results finally came in, it showed that the majority of our roots centered on a celtic region of England. There was also an area around Luxemburg.
The next question, were we related to the Lee’s of Virginia? Yes, we were. But not closer than 75 generations. It looked like a dead end when another person with the last name Lee submitted his DNA. He had traced his ancestors back to England and his ancestors were living in Illinois during the 19th century. The test showed they were related not less than 30 generations apart. That was the closest my father was linked to any other Lee’s in the study. This was significant because it proved undoubtedly that for both of these men, in 30 generations, their ancestors carried the last name of Lee, and their father’s were who their mothers said they were.
As more DNA samples are submitted, the closer we are to understanding how we are related to one another.
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