The Dig

The Dig

Consumer DNA Testing

Over the last several years, interest in consumer DNA testing has skyrocketed. Many companies are offering consumers personal profiles that use their DNA samples to analyze lineage, family history, and even potential medical problems.

Marylanders Laurie Spector, Bobby Westfall and Rich Scheer have all paid to have their DNA analyzed in quests to learn more about their heritage. All three say they confirmed what they already knew from family lore. None of them, though, have learned anything new.

But that’s not always the case.

MPT Digital Studios
Who is doing DNA testing in Maryland, and why?

DNA testing can be especially helpful and validating for those with Jewish or African American heritage. They are people who often have large data gaps in the genealogy records they can easily find using conventional research methods. Vivian Fisher, manager of Enoch Pratt’s African American Center, suggests people interested in learning more about their roots utilize testing in concert with other forms of investigation. The goal, she says, is to “create a narrative about your family.” And that calls for some deep digging. In some cases, a little luck helps.

Now, the science of DNA testing is assisting genealogists.

But as public interest in DNA analysis has increased, so have potential complications. There are concerns over the sharing of peoples’ health risks as identified by DNA testing. Test results can even differ, because companies use different historical databases and algorithms to analyze samples. The process is further complicated by historic shifts in borders, and migration patterns throughout the centuries. Some of the testing companies even divide the world into regions differently.

Yet despite some of the misgivings, many people are finding the appeal to discover one’s heritage is strong, and they are choosing DNA testing in their personal quest to explore their family’s past.

Ellis Island video courtesy of: Archive.org’s Community Collection

Consumer DNA Testing