DNA is the thread that makes up the fabric of whowe are. It is also the tint in our Iris, the gray (what, you aren’t grey yet?) of our hair, the knock of our knees, the recipe of our self. It is also the road map of our ancestry.
I have, according to Doodle my Grandmother, my grandfather Gaulden’s hair and eyes. I can see in the mirror that I have my mother's smile. All of my siblings and I have the same basic build, in varying degrees, of our grandfather TC. One sibling has curly brown hair and resembles, again according to Doodle, Doodle’s mother Allie Compton. The other sibling is some kind of incredible replica of TC. I know that I see my sibling in the face and expressions of my niece. I also see the same niece in the face of a second cousin. All our family traits, everything is inherited and that inheritance is decided by our DNA.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the carrier of our genetic (origins, the study of heredity) information. It is “a chemical consisting of a sequence of hundreds of millions of nucleotides found in the nuclei of cells containing the genetic information about an individual. It is shaped like a double-stranded helix, which consists of two paired DNA molecules and resembles a ladder that has been twisted. The “rungs” of the ladder are made of base pairs, or nucleotides with complementary hydrogen bonding patterns.”
So in the simplest form DNA is hundreds of millions of very small things found in a cell – each cell in our bodies. How these tiny things are set-up is how our body knows how to be. This is the basic thing to know.
We inherit parts of us from our mothers and our fathers. We also inherit parts of us from our grandparents and their parents and their parents and…HOW we inherit it is much harder to explain.
If we all inherited things only from each of our parents then we would all look just like our parents and each of our siblings. But as I discussed above, I don’t look just like my brother or my sister. I don’t look just like my father or my mother. I don’t look just like any of my grandparents. I look just like a random combination of all of, or parts of, different ancestors from the beginning of my family line(s).
So, I can ask my family questions and find out about my family history. I can be told I have my grandfather's eyes…wow, I must have inherited them from him…but who did he inherit them from? Well, no one is alive today to tell me that. No one is alive to tell me who his father was from first-hand experience either. I can go to the Library, County Archives, State or Provincial Archives and the National Archives and find the paper trail. The paper trail may or may not tell me anything further back than what the papers cover, but how can I find out about the rest of the story.
Technically a DNA test won’t tell me who I got my eyes from, but it can tell me that I have blue eyes based on what my DNA test says. A DNA test can also tell me that my mother is my mother (despite how many times my sister told me I was adopted), that my grandmother is my grandmother and that her great, great, grandmother is really her 2xgreatgrandmother. To connect the DNA with the paper trail, to prove that trail, is basically the found holy grail of our family history.