Some of us get bitten by the genealogical bug early in life, others a bit later. But there are few of us who haven’t been haunted by the question – where did I come from?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.
So when University of Southern California researchers invented something called the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) test, which works by scanning a person’s DNA for parts that were formed as a result of two ancestors from disparate populations having children, the press release instantly caught my attention.
More captivating, though, was the claim this new DNA test could locate where your relatives lived over the past 1,000 years, and in some cases, even pinpoint the specific village or island your ancestors came from.
It’s easy to draw the boxes for your own family tree going back 1,000 years, but it’s far more difficult finding the names, places, and detailed information about each of your ancestors.
The genealogy industry today consists of millions of fragmented efforts happening simultaneously. The duplication of effort is massive. While significant databases already exist on websites like Ancestry.com, RootsWeb, GenealogyBank, and the National Archives, there is still a much bigger opportunity waiting to happen, an opportunity to automate the creation of our genealogies.
We have the ability to create the placeholders for family trees going back 1,000, maybe even 5,000 years. And now with the GPS Test we can automatically start filling in pieces of information coming from every DNA test.
Using today’s stitching programs, a technology that can do pattern matching to link individual family trees whenever common names or common details show up, and using search bots to mine existing databases, we have several of the pieces already in place to begin the whole earth effort.
This kind of information becomes critically important for those looking for ways to improve personalized medicine, forensic science, and conduct research pertaining to ancestral origins of different populations. But it’s far more than that.
What’s missing is a Jimmy Wales-type entrepreneur to turn this project into their life’s calling. Here’s why this type of project is so critically important.