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Tracing leaves of the family tree: Gropel to talk genealogy how-tos Thursday

LUVERNE -- Deoxyribonucleic acid -- better known as DNA -- is a term for the genetic makeup of every human body. Every crime show junkie knows tracing DNA as a seemingly conclusive method of identifying criminals.

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Gregg Gropel holds a chart of the percentages of shared DNA between relatives based on the closeness of the relationship. Robin Baumgarn/Daily Globe

LUVERNE - Deoxyribonucleic acid - better known as DNA - is a term for the genetic makeup of every human body. Every crime show junkie knows tracing DNA as a seemingly conclusive method of identifying criminals.

However, DNA is also increasingly used for another purpose - to connect the dots of the family tree.
Gregg Gropel, a member of the Ostfriesland Genealogy Society of America, is offering a presentation titled “DNA Genealogy 101” Thursday through Luverne Community Education.
Gropel said he became interested in genealogy in 1954, but wasn’t able to fully immerse himself in the pastime until his retirement.
When he began charting his family tree, Gropel had not yet used DNA as a tool for finding distant relatives. Since then, the tool has become very helpful in filling in holes in his family tree. However, it isn’t always 100 percent reliable.
In his presentation, Gropel plans to describe the most common methods of DNA testing and discuss which is best suited for the familial bond being traced. It’s important for people getting started in genealogical DNA searches to be aware of which test they are using in order to get the most accurate results, he explained.
Y-DNA testing only traces DNA carried by the paternal family line, while mt-DNA testing traces the maternal side.

Many popular DNA genealogy testing sites use autosomal DNA testing, which incorporates both paternal and maternal bonds and includes those distant relations in between.
In addition to the basics of DNA tests, Gropel will offer the names of testing companies, costs involved, how DNA can be used to discover lost cousins and how certain tests will identify ancestral migration patterns as well as ethnicity.
Adding DNA into genealogy searches can break down walls as well as create a few surprises. Gropel noted that the farther out the relationship, the less DNA is shared between relatives. For example, fifth or sixth cousins share less than 1 percent of common DNA - a link small enough to remain undetected by some DNA tests.
In his presentation, he will talk about his own discoveries - he shares DNA with one person but not another, even though he shares ancestors with both - and other unusual situations that have occurred during his research.
The one-session presentation will start at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Luverne Community Education classroom CE802. To register for the DNA Genealogy 101 presentation, call Luverne Community Education at (507) 283-4724.

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