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March 30, 2023

Using DNA For Genealogy Research

By Ann Grilliot, Genealogy & Local History Coordinator

I want to learn more about genetic genealogy. You know, using your DNA to find all those cousins you share centimorgans with.

Alice Landström Stephan (aged 2) with her mother, Hulda Perrson Landström, and her father, Petter Persson, and his 2nd wife. Örebro Sweden 1904

Growing up, my grandmother shared stories of her Swedish family. I always loved to see “the shoe” when I visited her as a child. On the ship from Sweden, my “farmor” or paternal grandmother, Alice Landström Stephan, kicked her shoe off into the ocean. That one was never seen again, but the survivor has been passed down to my cousin. Genealogy research has allowed me to find the ship she sailed on, the travel dates, and the route from Örebro Sweden to the coastal city of Göteborg to England and from England to New York aboard the Baltic in 1904 when she was 2 years old.

I was curious to see how much of my makeup was Swedish without having to eat lutefisk. A few years ago, I took the plunge and decided to purchase a DNA test. My results qualify me for lingonberries and cardamom rolls. I am not Swedish enough to eat stinky herring!

Surviving shoe of Alice Landström Stephan

Turns out estimating ethnicity may not be the best use of DNA testing results, as there are many variables in those results, and they morph as more people get tested. Instead, autosomal DNA, Y-chromosome, mitochondrial DNA, and GEDMatch may help you find those relatives that have been a “brick wall” for your research. Testing may confirm a relationship that you have only had a hunch about and could not confirm with records. They may also bring to light some completely new and unexpected information.

Alice Landström Stephan & me, Ann Stephan Grilliot

I haven’t found any surprises so far. More members of my family have taken these tests; my brother is still my brother, and my first and second cousins all match up. But, I realize that I have not used this powerful tool to its full genealogical potential. Maybe, I can find and track down those distant cousins that are still back in Sweden.

Genetic genealogy is intricate and definitely has a language all of its own. What was once science fiction is now common and accessible to most. To help us learn the terms and get the most from genetic genealogy, Steven Frank of the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group will present a program on Saturday, April 15 at 10am in the Noblesville Large Meeting Room. Please register for DNA and Genealogy on our events calendar.

If you would like to explore your own ancestors’ travel stories, see the Indiana Room staff about using the library’s resources to find out about immigration and migration. While the second floor is being remodeled, you can find us in the Rotary Room on the main floor in Noblesville. Email indrm@hamiltoneastpl.org or call us at 317-770-3236 for help.

Recommended Resources

Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine Bettinger

929.1072 BET 2016

Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine Bettinger

929.1072 BET 2016

Tracing Your Ancestors Using DNA edited by Graham S. Holton

Hoopla eBook

DNA and Genealogy Research: Simplified by Stephen Szabados

Hoopla eBook

Central Indiana DNA Interest Group Website