The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by guest author Chris Pomery, used here with the author's permission.
Last month saw the publication in the UK of an important book for family historians: Surnames, DNA, & Family History. I say important because it’s rare to see a book-length treatment that describes the impact genetic testing is having on the study of surnames and the way we do our family history. And one co-authored by three big names — George Redmonds, Turi King and David Hey — one from each of the three component disciplines in the title, is certainly news.
The founding father of DNA testing, Sir Alec Jeffreys, confirms this sense of importance in the book's Foreword by observing that the cost of DNA testing is plummeting. “I foresee in the not-so-distant future that a global genetic readout [i.e. all the genetic information in our personal genome, not just a tiny part of it as with current DNA tests] will become the must-have birthday present”, he writes. “The driver will not, I suspect, be for medical reasons…but for ancestry.”
Sir Alec’s forward-looking predictions highlight a key feature of this book: it is a survey of where we stand today, fortified with indications and wishes of what is to come, rather than a comprehensive set of conclusions already reached. In short, the greatest promise from the marriage of genetics and genealogy still lies in the future. Where, then, do we stand today?
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