As one of the most intimate parts of our being, human DNA can provide an incredible amount of insight. As microscopic as it is, the chemicals encoded in each of our cells contain information that can tell us about where our ancestors lived in the past, what health risks we may face, and even the percentage of Neanderthal DNA we’ve inherited! Although ‘recreational genomics’ is by no means the most accurate way of learning about your individual genetic blend, there are plenty of benefits to genealogy research for seniors.
Ancient History and Modern Methods
Although it’s sometimes a topic of disagreement, paleontologists have long known that the earliest of modern humankind’s ancestors originated on the African continent and began migrating to places like the Middle East, India, Europe and Central Asia anywhere from 60,000 to 2 million years ago. Somewhere during that process, humans intermingled with Neanderthals (including Cro-Magnons), and eventually adapted to their geographical environments to provide all of the wonderful racial diversity we see today. Sure, there’s a lot more to it, but that’s generally what most anthropologists agree on.
Although you may be well aware of where your parents and grandparents had lived in the past, what about their parents, grandparents and so on? It hasn’t been until relatively recently in human history since we’ve had the ability to look back hundreds of years to reveal who our ancestors were, who else they had children with, and how that all culminates in people living today. Often times, those who conduct genealogy research for seniors are pleasantly surprised by what they find right in their own cells!
How Does Genealogy Research for Seniors Work?
The science of genetics is extremely complex, so I’ll explain it as simply as I can:
By testing someone’s unique combination of chromosomes, genes, and proteins it’s possible to compare DNA strands to identify any variations or mutations that would create specific, biological outcomes for a person. This can include any hidden predispositions to certain illnesses and even certain traits that arise from unique genetic combinations.
Although DNA analysis is complicated, your part of the process is actually very simple! For services like 23andMe or AncestryDNA, all it takes is a vial of your saliva to uncover your personal genetic information. 23andMe provides your genetic health information for around $199, while AncestryDNA is more for learning about your unique ethnicity. Although, beyond getting the genetics out of the way, genealogy research for seniors can also require a bit of homework to learn more about specific members of your family tree!
Using Ancestry.com’s online family tree builder, you can access online data to learn about your immediate and distant ancestors. Although these records are bound to stop at a certain point, there are lots of other online resources to continue your genealogy research!
Why Conduct Genealogy Research for Seniors?
Beyond learning about any hidden health risks, genealogy research for seniors can have many benefits! If it’s nothing else but a hobby, you’ll be keeping your mind sharp with all of the intense studying, reading, and critical thinking required to construct an accurate family tree.
However, learning about your ethnic identity and ancestors can have some profound impacts on your perspective. As something that may not have been a common dinner table topic in the past, gaining an objective perspective on a family’s past can inspire feelings of empathy with current events or groups of people, especially for younger generations who may be wondering about their place in the world. Coming to understand the difficulties distant members of your family faced in order to produce the life you have today can be a both a humbling and emotional process, though such knowledge is ultimately very rewarding!
It’s important to remember that all humans are members of the same biological species, making us all distant relatives at some point. Much like the many amazing breeds of dogs, humans come in all shapes and sizes as prescribed by their DNA — something we can celebrate even more deeply with the help of genealogy research for seniors!
Here are some additional resources:
If you’ve conducted your own genealogical research we’d love to hear from you! What surprising things did you find? Are you related to someone famous or historically significant? And to think that’s all in your spit…