The arrival of the internet has revolutionised the search for relatives and ancestors. No more lurking around in a damp and dusty archive. Of course, there is a certain amount of this which does still go on as not everything is on line but so much ground can be covered and research done now with just a few clicks of the mouse.
The internet has made it possible to research family history so much more quickly and also cross-reference within literally just a few hours, work that could have taken months to achieve before the arrival of the digital age. It has made it possible for researchers and keen enthusiasts to reach out to people across the globe as the internet links interested parties together.
Now, as well as creating your family tree, it is also possible to identify your ethnicity. For some people a DNA test confirms what they already know but for others, there may be some surprises. Ethnicity testing is picking up a whole stratum of people who are not actually interested in the history of their family but just want to know what is in their ethnic mix.
The DNA test uses some of the most advanced autosomal testing technology. Science combines with the store of information now available on line to map ethnicity going back through multiple generations. This is all achieved through a simple saliva test. The test looks at a person’s entire genome and covers both the maternal and paternal sides of the family tree.
However, some pundits maintain that ethnic testing is not reliable. The methods used for ancestral DNA testing are not the same as DNA testing for other purposes. The autosomal testing base is considered to be one the less reliable forms of DNA testing.
Further, the results are partly based on responses from a pool of other people who have had similar testing, what are described as a reference population. So the results could come across as a little skewed. Arguably until many more people have put themselves forward for ethnicity testing, there will remain naturally limiting factors.
Some ethnicities are easier to identify than others, for example, Jewish results seem to be highly accurate. But if you look at the evolution of the European landmass, war followed by shifting borders followed by more war and so on, most Europeans are actually an ethnic mix. In the same way, the inhabitants of the British Isles are a mix of invaders and the resident population who were themselves probably also invaders at an earlier point in time.
Living ancestry is becoming a real thing and there are people who create heritage tours. These are based on documented evidence of past family members and genetic testing. The idea is to make it possible for you to stand on the same soil as your ancestors. But ethnicity testing has a long way to go if it is going to catch up and compete with hard historical evidence when it comes to clear and factual accuracy.
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