DNA is an important tool

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr. at P.O. Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or www.gagensociety.org.

DNA has become a very useful tool in helping figure out different aspects of your genealogy.

Several years ago I verified a family story on my paternal line via familytreedna.com's Y chromosome test, but not all DNA results are that straightforward. That company also offers autosomal testing in their FamilyFinder test.

Recently I took ancestry.com's DNA test, which regularly costs $99. While it is advertised as helping identify your ethnicity, I found the test a lot more useful than that. The results were very user-friendly, breaking matching cousins down into those at the third cousin range, the fourth cousin range and "distant cousins." So many results showed up, I have not yet searched them all. Go to ancestry.com and click on the tab for DNA to check it out.

You can search by surname among the results. If you post a family tree on Ancestry, then when you open a cousin’s link it suggests how you are kin, and many times you find people on branches of your tree that you didn’t know were working on genealogy.

Some people have locked their trees and you have to ask permission to view. Others have posted no ancestors at all, leaving you to wonder. This is an autosomal test, and some results don’t seem to fit into any known part of my tree. But it is worth a try to see who you might find — and what they might help you with, or you with them.

You don't have to join Ancestry to take this test, but it helps in linking to more results. A word of caution from Peter Roberts, local DNA expert: "Unfortunately AncestryDNA does not tell you which parts of your DNA you share with your match, so your actual shared ancestor may be different from the one shown. Upload your results to www.gedmatch.com to see the segments you share with your cousins, including some of those who tested with 23andMe and Family Tree DNA's Family Finder."

‘Freedom’ lecture

Artist Charmaine Minniefield will speak May 20 at the DeKalb History Center in Decatur about her new exhibit at the center, “Letting Freedom Ring: A Celebration of Freedom,” honoring the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

The event is at noon and is free; bring your own lunch. For further information see www.dekalbhistory.org or call 404-373-1088, Ext. 23.

The society’s archives, centered on DeKalb County history, are open Tuesdays-Thursdays for research; call to make an appointment. The center also accepts donations of materials related to DeKalb, so check with them before you toss anything that might be historical.