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DNA and Family History: How Genetic Testing Can Advance Your Genealogical Research [Paperback]

Chris Pomery


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Book Description

Oct. 1 2004

In the wake of highly-publicized scientific breakthroughs in using genetics to establish family connections, genealogists began to see potential for their own research. Now many are finding that organizing tests is a relatively straightforward matter - and that comparing the DNA signatures of individuals can reveal startling information on families, surnames and origins. Here Chris Pomery explains the practicalities of testing and interpreting the results. He also takes an objective look at the issues. Whether you are simply seeking to stay informed, actively interested in exploiting the technology, or already part of a DNA project, this is the one guide that fully explores the existing possibilities.


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In the wake of highly-publicized scientific breakthroughs in using genetics to establish family connections, genealogists began to see potential for their own research. Now many are finding that organizing tests is a relatively straightforward matter - and that comparing the DNA signatures of individuals can reveal startling information on families, surnames and origins. Here Chris Pomery explains the practicalities of testing and interpreting the results. He also takes an objective look at the issues. Whether you are simply seeking to stay informed, actively interested in exploiting the technology, or already part of a DNA project, this is the one guide that fully explores the existing possibilities.

About the Author

Chris Pomery is organizer of the pioneering Pomeroy study, which has been widely cited in coverage including Radio 4's Surnames, Genes and Genealogy and Steve Jones' controversial book Y: The Descent of Men. He lives in Cornwall, England.


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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Introductory Book on the Market Aug. 6 2005
By Kevin Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Genetic genealogy is a blossoming market and the number of books in this space is rapidly growing. Major books include: Seven Daughters of Eve, Adam's Curse, Trace your Roots with DNA, and DNA and Family History.

Professor Bryan Sykes' book The Seven Daughters of Eve was a seminal work. This book focuses on mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) that is passed down the maternal line. This book is written in an easy to read style that creates the tone and tenor of a mystery novel. The punch line of this book is that all maternal lines can be traced back to seven theoretic women who lived at different places in the worlds at different times. This book is very light reading and similar to picking up a pop culture magazine. This book is not recommended other than as the most basic introduction to genetic genealogy. It also suffers from it's minimal discussion of paternal DNA testing (Y-chromosome) which is the most popular form of DNA testing today.

Sykes second book "Adam's Curse" discusses the long term de-evolution of the male chromosome. It's a shame that Sykes has stooped to pandering to sensationalistic popular culture instead in more serious genetic research. Sykes made a name for himself in this space, but it seems that this segment of science has passed him by.

Two excellent introductory books were published in 2004 -- "Trace Your Roots with DNA : Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree" by Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner and "DNA and Family History: How Genetic Testing Can Advance Your Genealogical Research" by Chris Pomery.

In Trace your Roots, Smolenyak, who makes her living as a professional genealogist, branches out into genetics and DNA testing. She hooks up with Ann Turner, the past administrator of a key DNA message list, to create a good introductory book on genetic genealogy. This book covers all the basics for someone who is considering having a DNA test done. I was disappointed that almost half the book (90 out of 235 pages) was dedicated to starting and running a DNA project. I view this material as fluffy filler since most readers aren't likely to need this information.

A similar book is Chris Pomery's "DNA and Family History". This book also covers all the basics in a straightforward and informative way. This book focuses primary on the most popular form of DNA Testing -- testing of the paternal Y-chromosome line. The book includes numerous references to the book's online site ([...] This site is supposed to contain supplementary information but many links don't seem to have been activated.

Pomery does a nice job contrasting genetic families that might be derived from a single ancestor with those that might be derived from multiple ancestors. He also discusses the origins of various classes of surnames which is important in understand this issue. Pomery also uses many examples from surname projects that can be found on the web.

One knock on both books is their minimal discussion of what DNA testing can't do. Neither book elaborates on the limitations of DNA testing for genealogists such as testing inability to definitively identify parents and brother and the small and biased sample sizes that home geneticists are using to make sweeping conclusions. Neither book describes in more than a paragraph or two the lasting thinking about haplogroups -- i.e., the origin of R, E, J, etc. Y-DNA clusters. In addition, neither book will aid the experienced DNA researcher.

My recommendation:

If you looking for one day's worth of beach reading, try Seven Daughters of Eve or Spencer Wells, Journey of Man. Also consider getting these books at the library as these seminal works are quick reads that you don't need cluttering up your shelves.

If you are a serious genealogist or are considering DNA testing or joining the National Geographic Genographics Project, then stick to Smolenyak or Pomery. After reading both, I find them both excellent and roughly equivalent. However, I clearly prefer DNA and Family History by Chris Pomery. The book simply contains more information which is presented in a more straightforward fashion.

Kevin Campbell

Campbell DNA Project Administrator
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DNA for all Jan. 19 2006
By Anthony Adolph - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although human genetics have been studied now for over 30 years, the application of DNA to family history is a phenomena of the new millennium. The results of the first study that tested people of the same surname to see if they shared the same male-line DNA were published in 2000. Since then, some 25,000 people have been tested commercially, and over 1,500 surname studies have been set up, half in the past 18 months, of which that on Wells is the largest, numbering 303 participants.

Chris Pomery, organiser of the Pomeroy DNA project, has written the first book explaining specifically how genetics can help genealogists. DNA can indicate whether people with the same surname are likely to be related, and sometimes can show that people supposedly related through the same family tree actually are not. It is a fantastic tool for studying surnames, and investigating groups of supposedly-related people, such as members of a caste, tribe or clan. The results of this brand new science often - and amazingly - bear out ancient, oral traditions attesting to common ancestry. DNA also enables us to map the migration of humans out of Africa, and determine our own places in that extraordinary story.

Excellent features of this book, besides its clear text and useful diagrams, are crisp, boxed summaries at the end of each chapter and a supporting website, [...] which provides more detail and scientific background on many of the issues covered in the book.

This is no mere guide: this is Chris Pomery's manifesto to encourage us all to have DNA tests and set up surname studies, thus adding more genetic information to the growing databases of human DNA. The more DNA results there are, the more accurate and interesting results will be for everyone.

One of the ironies of genetics is that, just as we are learning how to decode the data contained in our genes, the signal is being lost. Isolated populations, with their distinctive genetic codes, are being diluted into the increasingly homogenised soup of modern human DNA, so data gathered in the future will be far less informative. The traditional marriage of male-line Y chromosomes to hereditary (male-line) surnames is also breaking down. In a few generations' time, far fewer people will have the same surname as their male-line great grandfather, making surname-based DNA projects far less easy to organise. Hopefully, many people will be inspired by Chris Pomery's excellent book and get testing now.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Virtually useless for me May 7 2013
By Happy Hubby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Having chased an ancestor's paper trail for decades, I was eager to interpret some relevant DNA results. Thus, I read everything I could find on-line. Hoping to learn more, I purchased Pomeroy's book DNA and Family History.
One chapter in this book was relevant for using DNA results to find my ancestor's immediate forebearers. Thirteen chapters were not.
If you are interested in deep ancestry, prehistoric migration patterns, or the origin of British surnames, you might like this book.
If you want to find the father of your oldest known male ancestor, spend an hour on the internet. This book offers nothing more.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outdated March 8 2014
By Fran - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent book but a little old in a changing field. I hope the author will update with the new findings in DNA testing and how it assists genealogy research.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad, Just Not Up to Date Nov. 9 2013
By Early Adopter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dated info. Find an online blog on consumer DNA testing and you will keep up with what is currently available and what it can and can't tell you about your family history

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