DNA...Should We Use It?

Over the last several years, many genealogists have begun to use DNA tests to link their families to a specific region of Africa as information regarding their enslaved ancestors is scant and/or rarely available for them to prove using traditional genealogy. We have often discsussed this option for the Atlas family as it would give us more clues into our true history before our ancestors were brought to the United States.

The importation of slaves into the United States was banned by Congress in 1808 but of course, the practice did not stop completely. By our hypothesis, this would mean that King Atlas, Sr. was either the first or second generation born in the United States as he was born between 1809-1810 in either Alabama or Georgia.

In order to obtain information on King Atlas, Sr.'s African ancestry and/or the ancestry of his parents, we would have to test a male family member who is related to King Atlas, Sr. on his father's side. Since only men carry a Y chromosome, they are the only option for this particular test. Thankfully, many Atlas men have a number of sons, so there is a large number of possible testers available to us. Unfortunately, the Y chromosome mutates more over time than the X chromosome does. This would mean that testing an older male family member may be advantageous.

On the other hand, finding a tester to trace the ancestry of Rachel (Day) Atlas is a challenge. We would have to find a woman who is related to her on her mother's side or that Rachel was her mother's mother's mother's mother or great great great great grandmother. Recent research has proven that King Atlas, Sr. had more than one wife. Mary Dugan was listed as the mother of at least King Atlas, Sr.'s son Andrew Atlas, while it has not been proven or discovered that she was the mother to all of his children or only Andrew.

Since Andrew was the youngest child of King Atlas, Sr., it's very possible that Mary was the mother of all of his children and that he married Rachel following Mary's death and the emancipation of the both of them. With this said, finding someone who could test for Rachel (Day) Atlas' ancestry may not provide a true picture of our collateral ancestral lineage.

While men can test for both their paternal and maternal lineage, they can only test for their maternal lineage through their own mother and not their father's mother. This also eliminates the ability for us to test a man to get Rachel or Mary's lineage.

While keeping all these things into account, deciding on a specific company is also an issue. There are a number of companies that one can use to perform the tests, but not all of them have an extensive database on African ancestry. These companies will tell you that you have African ancestry but will not narrow it down to a tribe or specific region. One company, AfricanAncestry.Com, can do that, but each test ranges from $200 to $300. Others, such as 23andMe.Com, (prices starting at $399) offer not only genealogical testing, but also health testing as well that asserts to tell you about health issues one may ben predisposed to based on their DNA but do not state that they offer the depth of results that you get with AfricanAncestry.com

Of course, none of the results can trumph doing the actual genealogical research. The DNA most companies use only amounts to 1 percent of our entire DNA but over 99 percent of human DNA is the same, which is the reason why they use such a small percentage. The more markers that are used on the one percent, the higher the likelihood of having good results.

The jury is still out on the financing and action of conducting such an endeavor for our family...


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