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DNA digs into family tree

DNA digs into family tree
An Urbandale man goes high-tech to trace his ancestry and uncover previously unknown relatives.


March 28, 2006

Larry Slavens has spent years researching his family history the traditional way: interviewing elderly relatives in Hendricks County, Ind., writing down names and dates from crumbling tombstones, searching through yellowed documents, scanning miles of microfilm.

When it comes to filling in the missing pieces, though, the 48-year-old Urbandale computer analyst is counting on a high-technology solution.

Slavens is the administrator and charter member of the Slaven DNA project, an ongoing study that relies on genetic markers to determine if families with surnames similar to his are connected and if so, how far back in history.

Genetically, humans regardless of where they come from or what their ancestry is are far more alike than different.

Scientists mapping the human genome in 2000 found it consisted of about 3 billion pairs of DNA chemicals or "letters," and that those letters were 99.9 percent similar from one person to the next.

It's within that 0.1 percent difference that the science of genetic genealogy was born. Just like notations in an old Bible or census records, family history is recorded in our genes. A father's Y chromosome DNA is passed down virtually unchanged to his sons while mothers pass down their mitochondrial DNA to their sons and daughters.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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