What do genealogists do after they’ve traced their ancestors as far as written records will take them? Well, recent and continuing advances in molecular genetics hold promise for some very interesting possibilities for further research.
Genetics research during the past ten years has shown that an incredible amount of information about our ancestry is encoded in our genetic material (DNA). We all receive half of our genetic material from each of our parents, but there are two kinds of DNA that are passed down from each parent that are not mixed. This makes it possible to trace both our maternal and paternal lines since no mixing of DNA occurs for these kinds of DNA.
The method for gathering a DNA sample does not involve any blood sample or needle. Typically, either a cheek swab (which collects some cells from the inside of your mouth) or a saliva sample (collected in a small plastic vial), is used in testing your DNA by one of the commercial testing services. You seal your sample in a provided small plastic package or vial, and return it via postal mail to the testing company. After laboratory processing, you receive your DNA test results via email.
Mitrochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Testing
The method for tracing your maternal line is called mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from a mother to her children. While all children receive mtDNA from their mother, only females can pass on mtDNA. From these seemingly simple facts, an incredible amount of genetics research has resulted. The clearest expression of this research is in the book entitled The Seven Daughters of Eve by Dr. Bryan Sykes of Oxford University. Mitochondrial DNA research has led to the finding of a mitochondrial Eve and an assertion that 95% of all Europeans are descended from seven different women who lived 10,000-45,000 years ago.
Y Chromosome Testing
The method for tracing your paternal line is called Y chromosome testing. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son. Y chromosome research has lagged mtDNA research by a few years, but tremendous strides are being made. There are commercially available family reconstructions for individuals who want to determine if they have a common ancestor or for surname-based family tree projects. As more data becomes available, then more tests for various ancestries will be possible.
Czech DNA Studies
CGSI is aware of two separate studies on Czech DNA. Please see below for details on both of these projects.
Leo Baca's Czech American DNA Project
Since late 2001, Dr. Gary Kocurek (University of Texas) and Leo Baca have been collecting data from both Czech American Y chromosome and mtDNA test results. They are searching to see if specific patterns emerge from grouping this data. While they have not located a study of mtDNA from the Czech Republic, they were able to compare the test results of Czech Americans to Europeans in general.
For more information, visit the Czech DNA Project website, which includes a list of surnames in the study. If you wish to participate in the study please email Leo Baca or Joan Hudson.
Genetika a příjmení (Genetics and Surnames)
Genetika a příjmení is a project based in the Czech Republic. Marek Blahuš shared information about this project in his 2019 Naše rodina article.
For more information, visit the Czech Y-DNA database (in English)
or the Slovak Y-DNA database (in English).
If you wish to participate in the study, please email Marek Blahuš.
You can watch Marek's presentation from the 2019 CGSI Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska.