SALT LAKE CITY — DNA research and its application in family history is changing family history, said CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist who runs DNA Detectives, at the RootsTech family history and technology conference on Saturday at the Salt Palace.
“Our genealogy is truly coming alive through our DNA,” Moore said. “Genetic genealogy is turning traditional genealogy upside down.”
Previously, researchers would look through the paper trail to find where their ancestors came from. Now, it can start with a DNA test to see where a person’s ancestors are from, and then delve into the research to find those ancestors.
Moore shared about her brother-in-law, John, who was raised by his mother. There was an oral tradition of Native American heritage. He did the DNA test, and there wasn’t any Native American DNA, but there was 6.6 percent DNA from Africa, she said. They went to his mother and tested her DNA, and she had 12.6 percent DNA from Africa origins.
Then they started researching and found his great-great-grandmother and great-grandmother on a census record living at the same address as Madison Hemings, who the census recorder noted as a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, Moore said.
Through more research, they found he was a descendant of Sally Hemings, who was owned by Thomas Jefferson, and her brother was part of a genome exhibit. Also, a photo that is at Monticello is one that hung in John's home.
“For this family, their heritage was hiding,” she said. “It’s an incredible thing to learn how diverse we really are.
Moore shared cases where DNA testing helped find where two babies were switched at a hospital a century ago and where people found their biological families and found they had similar preferences and personality traits.
“It seems like science fiction, but a few years ago, what we’re doing now was science fiction,” Moore said.
Several sessions of RootsTech, a family history and technology conference that ends Saturday, will be available online at RootsTech.org.