Tracing the family tree

Dr. Henry Outlaw, standing, explains how DNA can be used to determine genealogy at the Chickasaw Heritage Museum Thursday night. Outlaws presentation was hosted by the Chickasaw County Historical & Genealogical Society. (Photo by Floyd Ingram)

Dr. Henry Outlaw, standing, explains how DNA can be used to determine genealogy at the Chickasaw Heritage Museum Thursday night. Outlaws presentation was hosted by the Chickasaw County Historical & Genealogical Society.
(Photo by Floyd Ingram)

HOUSTON – Genetic data and technology won’t help you find out about your relatives, but it can help tell you where they came from and who they are kin to.

Dr. Henry Outlaw, retired professor of chemistry at Delta State University, spoke at the Chickasaw County Heritage Museum last week about ways to use this new technology and how to use it to trace your family history and find clues that can help genealogy buffs know where to look for their ancestors.

“DNA testing will never replace the research you have to do to determine who your ancestors were,” said Outlaw. “But when the paper-trail runs out, that is when you can turn to genetic testing.”

The process is simple and Outlaw said a number of labs can be found online.

These companies charge a fee based on how in-depth you want their research to go. A sample is usually taken by swabbing the mouth and mailing to the company.

“You should look for a company with a large database,” said Outlaw. “I also suggest doing the more indepth research to get a more exact match.”

But, again, Outlaw said DNA testing should only be done after traditional ancestor research has been exhausted.

“DNA can tell you what part of the world you ancestors came from, what ethnic groups you are related to and give you markers that can help guide your search,” said Outlaw. “It won’t tell you if you are kin to Thomas Jefferson or if your family came over on the Mayflower.”

Outlaw explained how nuclear DNA is used to test paternal lines and how mitochondrial DNA is used to determine maternal lines.

“The learning curve on this stuff is pretty steep, but I urge you to do your homework before you go out and get a test,” said Outlaw. “It’s great to point you in the right direction and help you find out branches and roots of your family tree, but it cannot provide you with the entire family tree.”

Outlaw said DNA testing can help determine if living people are kin, but it can’t prove you were related to famous people who are already dead.

Outlaw said genealogy buffs can often trace an ancestor back to when they came to the United State, but the history often goes dry when the jump was made from Europe, Africa or Asia.

“You will hear how DNA plays a part in technology as well as history of not only you, but the entire human race,” said Outlaw. “Through DNA you can find out where your ancestors lived, their migration to other places and so much more information. It will boggle your mind.”

Outlaw served as Chairman of the Physical Science Department at Delta State University from 1970 until his retirement in 2002. He is currently a Development Office for the Delta State University Alumni Foundation.

For more information contact the Chickasaw County Museum by calling 662-456-2650 or visiting the museum located at 304 East Woodland Circle, across from the high school baseball field.

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