One term we may not see often anymore is something I saw on street signs all the time when I was a kid: "Dead End." Growing up on an island, there were many streets which, quite literally, ran out at the water's edge; the sign alerted drivers that they really ought not continue driving in that direction.
This weekend, working on my DNA matches which might bolster my Polish ancestry project, I realized one similar detail: if there are no matches for my Polish ancestry, then there is very little that DNA testing can do to help me build out that family tree any farther. Just like those "Dead End" signs on the island, it would be pointless to continue the search for matches.
It's not that direct to consumer DNA testing is outlawed in Poland—it isn't—it's just that it doesn't appear to be as widespread an option among consumers as it is in North America, for instance. While I do have some DNA cousins based in Poland according to my results at MyHeritage, there are precious few at Ancestry.com.
That places me in the challenging spot of trying to piece together that Polish-origin family tree without access to many actual records in regions now belonging to Poland, plus the lack of DNA matches who actually still reside in that country. And yet, it is exactly such matches that would walk me closer to educated guesses about which ancestors might lie beyond that research brick wall.
True, there are some volunteer-based projects which have been launched online, dedicated to transcribing local records in specific regions of Poland. For those, I am extremely grateful—and we will talk more about these resources in the coming weeks. But for now, while holiday sales attempt to convince people to buy DNA kits so their family members can explore their heritage, I can't help but hope for a surge in participation not only among those of us of Polish descent, but among those who still live in the same places in Poland which my ancestors once called home.
For now, especially for this month's Twelve Most Wanted research project, DNA won't be a necessary component, as Uncle John's wife would not be a blood relative—at least, as far as I can tell right now. But as I move further into those long-past generations of Polish roots, I will eventually need better tools in determining who belongs in those missing branches of that family tree.