Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Roots: Using DNA and Google Earth to Find Ancsestors

I was watching African American Live 2 on PBS tonight. The host, Henry Louis Gates Jr, demonstrated how with new DNA testing it is possible to determine ancestral identity for African Americans. Indeed, he did that with some prominent celebrities in that community. The precision applied indicates that it is possible to prove what tribe, country within Africa, and perhaps even what slave boat voyage brought their ancestors to America. Scientists have been able to match DNA sampling with Google Earth to visually represent where certain groups of genetic matches congregate.

This is incredible stuff. To someone like Don Cheadle (see right), who has travelled through a number of African countries, being given this information was profound; it was knowledge he was going to share with his parents, and on which it seemed he would also act on by travelling to Cameroon for that is where his DNA told him he was from.

My family from originates from England, from a place in Derbyshire called Thornhill in the Hope Valley. I knew this when I was young from the few records I found in my parents belongings after they had died. However, It was my cousin Lloyd Darwent who did the heavy lifting over a course of a decade (maybe more) to give a bigger picture of what our family tree looked like. His hard work determined that we originated in that village around the 1630's. He/we know this due to the public records that were kept. I have been fascinated, like anyone else, about my heritage because I did not have parents on whose knee I could learn these things.

Now, having seen the series episode referred to above, I am left wondering what else could be known about our family. What could geographical genealogical mapping used to trace Don Cheadle's roots tell us about the Darwents. did we have origins that take us back to some other place in Europe? Saxons? Danes? Romans? Or were we homegrown Angles? Another question that is in mind is where does one start to obtain this kind of testing? How much does it cost?

I find it exciting, even though as Morgan Freeman said this information cannot be turned into silver or gold. Its definitely something to explore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Darryl... I too love genealogy and have had such a facination with our history...although I would love to say "we're cousins"...our name was actually Damant and changed to Darwent by my great-great grandfather Walter Damant/Darwent. He was born in 1821 in Blackheath, Kent, England and died in Trinidad in 1868.
Sharon Darwent