The Proof Is On the Cotton Swab: DNA and Genealogy

I am a family history geek. I also happen to be a genetics geek too, and if I hadn’t chosen a career in museums, I would have been seriously tempted by science(Dr. V is a scientist!) So when Ancestry.com offered me a free DNA test as part of a Beta test of their AncestryDNA program, I went for it. My family tree has a lot of detail, but still there are stories. Great great grandfather Levi from Old Town, ME “was an Indian.” So I wanted to know, did this genealogical morsel have any truth? We’ve been watching Henry Louis Gates Jr. disillusion guest after guest on his programs about their supposed Native American ancestry using this type of test. After I took the test, I’m among those formerly known as Native American. Much of my family arrived in the American colonies in the 17th century – I assumed that they were primarily from the British Isles. So count me surprised when I found myself to be equally Scandinavian.  I knew my ancestors linked me to the Swedish settlers at the short lived Fort Christina, a 17th century settlement in Delaware. And while I knew my ancestry included a few Germans, where do the Eastern Europeans factor in? As you’ll see, there are no markers to back up the Penobscot lineage. Do I feel like a new person? No – not at all. But science makes research like this possible.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.