About DNA


Science has provided us with new tools for establishing family history relationships in a field of study now termed “genetic genealogy”. The following questions and answers should help you gain a basic understanding for this field of study as it is related to family history. Click on the question or scroll down the page. Click on the key to return.



How do scientists establish genetic relationships used in furthering family history?

The primary “genetic genealogy” tool used in family history research is called a “genetic profile”. This is the data that uniquely identifies an ancestor as part of a specific lineage. It is derived from scientific testing. This “genetic profile”, for males, contains data called markers found at a specific location “locus”on a chromosome in cells. The markers are part of a short sequence of DNA where a repeated sequence called an “allele”, handed down from generation to generation, from father to son, can be found. This is where the “genetic profile” information is derived. Scientists locate the markers, and find a unique genetic pattern in the DNA for each person tested. Based on these genetic patterns, the relatedness of the persons

represented by the data can be understood. In other words, after we are tested, we learn our individual genetic profile, and by comparison, determine if we share the same genetic profiles with other researchers and therefore are or are not related. Common genetic patterns of different persons can determine a lineage genetic profile. For the purposes of our Study, the term “genetic profile” will apply to individuals, and the term “lineage genetic profile” will represent common genetic patterns of persons with similar ancestry. Please note that this distinction is being made to benefit our communication and for clarity of meaning in using this Study. key

What can a test of our DNA accomplish?

The “genetic profile” can illustrate that persons tested have a common lineage and also show they have a common ancestor, although identifying the specific ancestor is subject to factors like the number of people tested from the same lineage, how well documented the family composition is delineated from generation to generation, etc. The more people tested, the greater the probability relationships and the specificity to the most common ancestor can be determined. However, depending on available information and the extent and quality of one’s research, specific ancestors may or may not be identified, although a specific lineage may be determined. Intermarriages within the same family should not have an effect on the

passage of DNA down through a male line. While great advances have been made in “genetic genealogy”, efforts to improve the findings from scientific data are underway with the goal of refining and being even more definitive in the future.

A comparison of “genetic profiles” is centered on identifying relationships and can support family history research by providing information that connects, validates, and rules out lineages. It can’t be emphasized enough as to how important it is that the test results and high quality family history research be viewed together to interpret DNA findings into family history learnings. key

What type test(s) will be used in this study?

The most widely used and most developed test is called a Y-Chromosome test. It applies to males who bear the surname being studied and carry the “genetic profile” in their DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). There are two other test types that can be performed – autosomal and mitochondrial. Autosomal tests are most often used for paternity testing, and are being developed further for family history applications in the future. Mitochondrial tests apply to women and their application is becoming more widespread although it is more complex to utilize this type test for family

history purposes at this time. Therefore, our first test will be a Y Chromosome test. We will consider additional tests in the future, including women, Native American and African American COMBS-COOMBS &c. based on interest and how viable the tests are viewed in the scientific community.

New approaches will emerge, and criteria we will need to consider, before utilizing these in advancing our family history, will be whether there is published information about the approaches and if the applications have been verified in the scientific community. key

Who will perform the test(s)?

We originally worked with RELATIVE GENETICS, a Sorenson Genomics business, to work with us in performing our DNA Study. When Relative Genetics was acquired by another business, we wanted to stay with the same testing labs so

we moved this study to DNA HERITAGE DNAH. To participate in our study participants will order their tests thru a link at our website to the DNA Heritage Company that enables the test order request to go directly to our study. key

What is the testing process?

After reviewing our conditions for participating in the study, you will go through a portal on our website to DNA HERITAGE where information about requesting a sample kit for DNA testing is located. After you request and receive the test kit, you will be given instructions and material to swab the inside of your mouth where cells are located that will provide the DNA for testing. You will return this by mail to DNA HERITAGE. They will test the DNA in their laboratory and provide a report to you and to the Project Administrator. You will be identified by a specific ID number for purposes of our study and the “genetic profile” derived from your DNA sample will be included in a chart on a secure web page in our on-line study.

At our secure website location, the DNA “genetic profile” will be grouped according to similarities and then the learnings from a family history perspective will be applied. At first, you may find the report you receive from DNA HERITAGE to seem very abstract however, it will be the comparison and application of the DNA findings that will result in the information needed to further your family history, as well as that of many other researchers. As more researchers are tested the more matches can be made and the better the assumptions we hope to make about what are the “lineage genetic profiles” of our COMBS-COOMBS ancestry.


NOTE: If you have already been tested by another genetic Testing Company please contact the Project Administrator to include your “genetic profile” as part of the Project.

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND -- TO PARTICIPATE IN THE STUDY DO NOT REQUEST A TEST KIT independently THROUGH THE DNA HERITAGE Website. Instead, you will need to go through our portal at this website.

What costs will be involved?

DNA HERITAGE DNAH has offered us a unique group rate that you will find when you enter the portal at our website to request a test kit. We would appreciate keeping the amount of this rate confidential. You will incur the fee once you have requested and submitted the Test

Kit. While there are a variety of services DNAH offers, please confer with the Project Administrator before assuming you need to pay for additional services OR display your markers outside of this study.

What drawbacks could occur?

There can be unique problems in working with “genetic genealogy”.

Sometimes, even what appears to be a well documented genealogy can have what are called “non-paternal events”. These can include illegitimate births, adoptions within families that are not evident, children by a previously unknown marriage, etc. The Project Administrator will work closely with unanticipated DNA test results to determine whether the person tested would prefer to publish or not publish the findings first, in the DNA FINDINGS section, and second, the DNA learnings as part of the LINEAGE STUDIES section. Keep in mind the DNA results will be coded so no one should know what data belongs to what person tested. Also, some unanticipated results

can be helpful, and not harmful, by providing much needed knowledge to clear up confusion from conflicting recorded data or family stories, ambiguities, longstanding questions, family history puzzles, etc.

Another problem may be waiting for matches to surface. Some lineages may take more time than others to be matched. Not being matched has some advantages in ruling out certain lineages that had been under consideration, but it would be best to find a match. There can be no way of predicting when the match will occur. What is helpful is that the greater the participation, the better the opportunities for matches. Also, the VIRTUAL ARCHIVE and LINEAGE STUDIES, in combination with our vast family history resources, will offer additional opportunities for locating ancestral connections. key

What if I cannot be tested?

If cost is an issue, please let the Project Administrator know. Some DNA surname study groups have a special fund or individuals who would like to assist others in being tested. The motivation for assisting others can be purely out of kindness and it can be because someone sees the added value to the study and would like to further our understanding of that lineage. The approach(es) this surname study will take on this subject are still to be determined. Our non-profit status may or may not make a difference in the way support can be accomplished.

Since our first study tests males with the COMBS-COOMBS surname, female researchers, as well as male researchers without the COMBS-COOMBS surname, should try to find related males to take the test. In other surname studies, it is noted that some female researchers and male researchers being represented by another person, will

split costs with the person being tested on their behalf, with the understanding that they also receive a report and the “genetic profile” information once testing is completed. This will be a matter of understanding between the related individuals. The Project Administrator will need to know who to work with based on these type understandings.

If you do not have a relative who can be tested, a list of lineages/persons in need of a male representative is included in the project where other list members may be able to help you identify a person who can be tested to represent your branch or lineage. See Part III below of HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR DNA STUDY key

How will the DNA findings be applied to family history in this study?

As DNA findings are conveyed to the Project Administrator, they will be reviewed with the person tested, charted, compared and studied for family history learnings. This will involve an on-going in depth review of different lineages for determining the implications of the findings. The interpretation of the findings may require the assistance of a molecular biologist or genetic genealogist at Sorensen labs with additional help provided by lineage experts who are part of our family of

COMBS-COOMBS researchers. This will validate assumptions about the data as it relates to family history. Once this is complete, then the interpretation of the DNA information will appear with a general interpretation in the DNA FINDINGS section of the Study. It will also appear in a RECENT DEVELOPMENTS section of the study, and be included in the LINEAGE STUDIES, as well as, noted in the VIRTUAL ARCHIVE. key

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