- Picture What DNA Might Revealby BethShelby
This work has reached the exceptional level
A family picture is found after DNA testing.
Pioneers of My People
: Picture What DNA Might Reveal by BethShelby
Pictures contest entry

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my grandfather’s lap and begging him to tell me a story. Grandpa wasn’t brought up on fairy tales, so all of the stories he knew to tell were either from his own boyhood, or stories which had been passed down to him from others. Grandpa, who was born in the late 1800’s, said his stories were told to him by his father.

Grandpa's family had migrated from Ireland to South Carolina in the late 1700's. The stories his father had told him were in the form of Irish jokes. Grandpa used the Irish brogue and slang while retelling these Pat and Mike stories to me. Pat and Mike were simple characters who had just immigrated to the states, and they were usually drunk or in trouble and trying to understand their new country. Somewhere in the joke the character would utter the expletive “faith and begorrah.” Begorrah, I later learned, was something the Irish people would say, rather than saying ‘by God’ or ‘Golly’.

My great-grandfather, who ran a grist mill by trade, had passed away in 1912 when my dad was only three-years-old. Because of grandpa’s stories, I found him to be an interesting character, and I wanted to know more about him. When great-grandpa was young owning a personal camera was rare. Professional photographers' pictures were usually on tin or glass. I was disappointed when Grandpa told me no photograph had ever been made of his father.

As I grew older, my curiosity concerning my family roots grew. Questioning my relatives yielded information only going back about three generations, and even that was sketchy. In the 1970’s, a couple of other family members became interested enough to pay an expert to trace one of my mother's family lines back six generations. It wasn’t until I got my first computer that I realized there are ways to trace family lines without having to hire an experienced genealogist.

My first attempts to trace my roots involved the genealogy department at our local library. They had census records on microfilm and many books written about prominent families. My family tree was soon expanding. Then I learned the “Latter-day Saints,” for reasons dealing with their religious beliefs, were engaged in tracing their roots. In Salt Lake City, the Mormon Church had established a databank of thousands of records gathered from sources all over the world. Eventually, I joined their Ancestry web site, which is open to anyone for a fee.

In the 1980’s, DNA profiling began to be used. Great strides were made in mapping the genome and in 2012 Ancestry and Twenty-three and Me were advertising ways to learn all about your family roots by having your DNA mapped. I decided to find out more after realizing how much you could learn from just submitting a sample of your saliva. They ran specials from time to time, and it seemed worth the price to have mine and my husband’s DNA mapped.

In addition to genealogy research, mapping the genome has made great strides in the health field. In the near future, medicine will use DNA profiling to determine the ideal treatment designed specificantly for each individual and can lead to cures of all major illnesses, many of which have been considered uncurable. 

Ancestry DNA testing includes a short membership in their website giving you access to thousands of files. In my opinion, you need to continue to pay for membership longer, because the amount of information you get is amazing. It is important that you start a searchable family tree on their site, including all the information you have, even if it is only a generation or two. Once you put names and dates into the tree you have started with Ancestry, you will find a world of information on all of your family lines.

A leaf pops up, and you click on it. It opens up more about your family, and soon you are tracing your family lines back to the 1700’s and beyond. It didn’t take long for me to learn that one of my family lines ran to two passengers from England, who were on the Mayflower. The early settlers kept good records, and I learned some interesting stories about both of them.

I used to be skeptical of the fact that every American president, including Obama, had lines running back to royalty. When many of my own lines ran to royalty, I realized we are all likely to trace back to royalty. With every generation you go back, everything doubles, and soon you find you share DNA with many well-known people. You can’t fool DNA. It knows who you are related to and how close the kinship is. It is accurate for at least five or six generations back. In time, it may go much furthur

Another surprise for me was my Irish lineage wasn’t Irish at all. The family migrated to Ireland from Scotland, and before they were there, they had fled from France to escape religious persecution. In the process, the family went through a name change. My family name wasn’t very close to what it had been originally.

Now, back to the great-grandfather, whom we believed had never had his picture made, I found we were wrong. When he was a young man, before the Civil War took place, he had a picture made with his brother. Relatives of the brother posted it on I now know I share DNA with these relatives, and they were pleased to get pictures I had posted of my side of the family.

The original portrait I am sharing is on glass, but it shows up well to be so old. This wasn't the only one of the many relatives' pictures I was able to get by having a membership with Ancestry. I was so thrilled to see how my great-grandfather looked. He didn’t resemble my grandfather at all, but his brother did share some similar features.

My great-grandfather is the one on the right. His looks had skipped a generation. If he had less hair, he would look just like my father.




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