Friday, November 26, 2010

Update: Trace Your Roots with DNA

Last night I finished reading the book Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner (Rodale, 2004; ISBN 1-59486-006-8). I strongly recommend it to anyone seriously interested in genetics and genealogy. Here are a few things I learned/concluded.

Y-DNA Testing

Of the two primary DNA tests used in genealogical research, the Y Chromosome DNA test interests me the most. It seems like a perfect match for determining whether the Whipples from Rhode Island and the Whipples from Ipswich, Massachusetts/Bocking, England share a common ancestor--or not. Learning that information can help researchers focus their pre-New World Whipple genealogical research.

mtDNA Testing

Just as Y-DNA testing is good for determining the patrilineal ancestry of male Whipples, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing is useful for verifying/validating a female's matrilineal ancestry. For Whipples in general--the focus group of the Whipple Genweb--mtDNA testing seens less useful. (That doesn't mean it isn't useful for specific Whipple's, however, in researching their own ancestry.)

See the DNA testing objectives suggested by the Whipple Website (which focus on Y-DNA tests). Their focus on Y-DNA tests need not exclude involvement of females that are Whipple descendants. Although our female cousins have no Y chromosomes, they do have brothers, uncles and male cousins to be recruited.

Other Y-DNA Databases

Page 192 of Trace Your Roots with DNA lists several additional Y-DNA database organizations:
  • (Y-chromosome Haplotype Reference Database), originated in Germany, primarily as a forensic database.
  •, sponsored by DNA Heritage, is the "first open-access database designed especially for genealogists." It can "accommodate results from any genealogical testing company."
  • is the database associated with Family Tree DNA--the organization that is testing my own Y-DNA and (perhaps?) the "official" organization for the Whipple DNA project.
  • GeneTree is associated with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation), associated with the database.
This morning I quickly visited all four sites in an attempt to learn of their searchability and availability to genealogical DNA newcomers.

One of the for probably deserves special note: When I visited GeneTree, I was immediately presented with a very simple (and compelling) registration page, which I "fell for." After I registered (for free), the site sent me an confirmation email, which included a link to the GeneTree database. It offered an easy-to-use interface for adding my Whipple pedigree and entering my alleles from the Family Tree DNA test.

Within 5-10 minutes of submitting that form, an email arrived in my inbox, informing me of 49 matches--many of them Whipples. I spent the afternoon "clicking into" those matches at GeneTree.

I continue to recommend Family Tree DNA for participants in the Whipple DNA Project. However, I also strongly suggest that participants pro-actively search other available Y-DNA databases for matches.

I currently feel fairly confident about the Y-DNA signature of Captain John Whipple of Rhode Island ( I need to gain the same degree of confidence for the Ipswich/Bocking Whipples.

The future is bright for the Whipple DNA Project. I look forward to watching it unfold!

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