03 June 2008

The genealogy may be in the dust, not the records

The stereotype is the genealogist leafing through old dusty records in some backroom of an archives or church basement. But the dust just may be more valuable than the documents.

That's the possibility raised by an article "Characterization of human DNA in environmental samples" published in the 10 June 2008 issue of Forensic Science International.

Researchers from
Virginia Commonwealth Universityhave identified human DNA in household dust. Human DNA was detected in 35 of 36 dust samples and 61% of samples yielded allele distributions of varying degrees of complexity when subjected to STR analysis. Overlapping signals from many people meant that it was virtually impossible to pick out any one person's DNA profile.

DNA is nature's genealogical record.
Imagine what this advancing technology could mean.

You send in family documents, like your great grandfather's diary, to a DNA analysis company. If he opened the diary each day chances are there are minute flakes of skin that fell off as he scratched his head over what to write. The sweat and skin cells from his hand stain the pages. It's all captured inside your carefully preserved family heirloom. As DNA recovery and amplification techniques improve his genetic heritage and yours, may be as easily revealed as today's genetic genealogy companies analyze a cheek swab.

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