Adventures in Genetic Genealogy
10/1/2006
Step right up for a ride on the DNA bandwagon! Our reporter takes a firsthand look at genealogy's latest development to help you navigate the maze of hype and haplotypes (or, what I Learned About My Family History From a Few Cheek Cells).

"Consult a professional" is advice you hear in all realms of life when your questions outweigh your ability to find answers. But I'm a professional genealogist, and I don't have all the answers — I could build a fortress with all the brick walls in my research. My dad's been waiting decades for me to figure out his family tree, but patient research hasn't gotten me very far. He's 84 now and he keeps asking for more.

Every time I flip through a magazine, read the newspaper or turn on the television, I'm confronted with genealogy's hottest new problem solver: DNA. The stuff that solves crimes on "CSI" and proves paternity on "Maury" also can link you to ancestral roots and present-day cousins. And it looks easy — after all, talk show host Oprah Winfrey did it, and so did comedian Chris Tucker for the PBS series "African American Lives" <www.pbs.org/wnet/aalives>. But I've never been much of a scientist, so I'm a bit intimidated by the multitudes of tests, the jargon-littered literature and the ongoing debate over what DNA really reveals about genealogy. Can DNA help this frustrated family historian find answers?