Tuesday, May 31, 2016
So, I'm on the eve of another genealogical conference, this one on the other end of a six to eight hour drive. It's not that I'm concerned about what to pack (I think I've got that routine down pat), or how to get there (though I can't exactly do this drive blindfolded, it's an event we've attended multiple times). It's not even that the check engine light came on yet another time (we've already had the car in the shop twice in the past two weeks to repair this, one of them turning out to be a not-so-cheap visit).
What is perplexing me, on the eve of the summertime travel season, is how to squeeze in enough family visits to insure that my three DNA test kits get in just the right hands to yield results that will answer my genetic genealogy questions.
You see, this particular trip will drive us right by the home of one cousin—a cousin whom I'm sure would be quite willing to participate in this genealogical experiment. To top that off, though, we just received a business-related opportunity to travel to another conference, which also happens to land us within driving distance of a few other relatives whose DNA test results would be very helpful in figuring out some family history mysteries. And we've already made promises to travel to visit two other aging relatives.
The number of potential visits is adding up to many more than the three DNA test kits I have on hand. And at the cost of testing—even considering the likelihood of upcoming sales at traditional times such as Father's Day—it would be a project better taken on by the independently wealthy. What a quandary.
This is where the wisest move would be to set aside the logistics for the moment, and pull out those pedigree charts. The question would be: which test for which individual would hold the key to answering the questions for which I most want an answer?
The answers, unfortunately, straddle the great divide between "his" and "hers"—my side and my husband's side of the family. On the one hand, a test done on the way to conference would yield a sure match on my husband's Stevens and Tully sides of the family, thus allowing me to differentiate between his paternal versus maternal matches. And when you get to numbers nearing one thousand matches, it is helpful to have a way to sort through such a mass of results. An added perk, if we use Family Tree DNA for that test (which is where the kits happen to have originated), we can also add the mtDNA test and help at least three cousins learn more about their maternal roots—a peek into Bohemian roots, in their case.
The biggest plus to that option is, of course, bird in hand. We already know we are headed that way. We will pass by that location twice.
The drawback is: that is not the biggest bang for my research buck. If we can arrange for a summertime trip back east, and if we can take an extra day's drive to visit a certain relative on my mother-in-law's side, with one test, we can have autosomal, mtDNA and Y-DNA results, all from one individual. The plus would be that this individual is the only known close relative who would be eligible to test for the Y line, and in testing, would provide a match to my husband's mtDNA test, as well. His results would also enable us to isolate other matches belonging on the Flowers and Metzger side of the family equation at the autosomal test level.
That second option would be an optimal outcome for isolating results on my husband's matches. The down side is, that's a line which is well documented, already. True, the mtDNA and Y-DNA would reveal some deep history for that part of the family. Considering that is my husband's mother's line, those test results would amount to half of my husband's own heritage, which is nice to know, but may not reveal much more than we've already been able to find out via old fashioned grunt work on the paper trail.
What I'd really like to see happen is to find some additional volunteer family members on my father's side of the family. Now, there's a family line which has me stumped. There may actually never be a paper trail for that side. However, with the right selection—and willingness—of just one of three specific cousins, we could have results to help enlighten us on my father's maternal line.
The trouble is, that is the least likely of three potential summer trips to actually happen, partly because of the distance involved. Yet, in the case of securing volunteer participation in DNA testing, it is far better to do so in person. I've heard that one should never, never, never just send a kit along with a "pretty please" request via the mail. Those kits end up on the back corner of a shelf in the bathroom, under the label, "Round Tuit." And they are never thought of again.
In less than twenty four hours, I'll have to make my decision. Perhaps also make some contact. Maybe ask for volunteers.
In the end, I wish I had the time and the budget to test all these relatives. More than that, I wish I had the time and the budget to go visit every one of them. The trouble with family living across the country—and, increasingly, around the world—is that the farther we all are from all of them, the less we get to see each other.
Which also means, of course, that if I get my wish to see everyone, I get to go through that pre-packing panic two or three times more.