Tuesday, April 26, 2022

How Did You Celebrate DNA Day?


In case you missed it, yesterday—April 25—was National DNA Day, a day commemorating the day in 1953 when scientists Watson, Crick, Wilkins, Franklin, et al, published papers in the scientific journal Nature on the double helix structure of DNA. As if that wasn't enough, the day also recognizes the "completion" of the Human Genome Project—"complete," that is, except for the "remaining tiny gaps" which this year were finally bridged by the Telomere to Telomere consortium, also announced in April.

So...how did you celebrate this year's DNA Day? If you were like many people, perhaps you gave it scant consideration unless you were hunting for a DNA test kit bargain. If you were, I hope you found a kit at just the right price.

On the other hand, perhaps, like the Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, you are eagerly anticipating what will become of the recently-added scientific knowledge gleaned from this latest DNA conquest. 

As for me, I celebrated by plowing through the listing of the two hundred nine DNA matches who share with my husband a most recent common ancestor from the early 1800s named Nicholas Schneider.

Don't think I've completed that chore yet. Perhaps I am slightly better than halfway done. While I had already connected several of the matches to our tree, others required some remedial work before I could line up the match with his or her ancestors. In other words, we are now beyond the ease of reaching for the low hanging fruit on this family tree.

I still find it amazing to think that these two hundred strangers all hold one ancestral couple in common with my husband. The connections span from well over three hundred centiMorgans down to a puny six centiMorgan measurement—the kind that, without a well-documented paper trail, I would otherwise have ignored. 

No matter how many times I repeat this process, I never lose that sense of awe at what these microscopic genetic sequences encode. Add to that the gratitude that we have the tools and the know-how to apply what has been learned to a multitude of promising developments to benefit humankind. 

Sure, DNA helps us find family, and points us clearly to our roots, but this is a story of discovery far more monumental than simply building our family tree. DNA "Day" represents a future with far more beneficial changes than just last week's sale prices. 

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