Finding long lost relatives: Hot news topic covered in 25th annual seminar |

Finding long lost relatives: Hot news topic covered in 25th annual seminar

Submitted to The Union
Maria Brower shown at the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research in Nevada City working on a research project. Brower is presenting four topics at the 25th annual Genealogy Seminar "Digging for Your Roots" including U.S. Vital Records, U.S. Church Records, Family Traditions True or False and Best of the Best Online Research Websites on Aug. 18.
Submitted photo to The Union

There have been several news reports covered by radio, television and print media in the last few months that have resulted in matching the DNA of living relatives with DNA long-held in evidence lockers. Finding matches has helped to solve major crimes in the U.S.

On the lighter side covered in newspapers over the last few years have been many human interest stories where DNA has lead to relatives finding each other, even when they had no idea the other person existed.

To long-time family researchers, DNA is an unexpected tool to use in their research. Never dreamed of tools that have become available in the Information Age are computers and other devices, the internet and genealogy programs that organize their research that are available at their fingertips. But the most important tool that will help researchers find information that would not be available to them from long-used sources is DNA.

Digging through history using DNA

DNA is very complicated and not as easy to understand as advertising by DNA companies and popular TV programs lead you to believe, said local researcher Maria Brower.

“You have to understand that a person’s DNA doesn’t represent the DNA of all his or her ancestors throughout time,” she said. “Your Autosomal DNA is a combination of half of your mother’s DNA and half of your fathers DNA. Your mother and father also got half of their DNA from their parents, and so back through time.

“All of the children in a particular family don’t necessarily get the same DNA percentages depending on how lucky or unlucky they may be since your DNA combination is random at conception. While my mother is 100 percent Italian, I only received 42 percent of her DNA from Southern Italy and another 3 percent came from Greece and the Balkins.

“From my paternal side the latest results shows 27 percent England and Wales, 11 percent Germanic Europe, 10 percent France, 7 percent Ireland and Scotland. This is a different mix than my results showed only months ago that then included 17 percent Scandinavian. DNA companies have been refining their tools and tests so if someone tested early on in DNA testing they could now be in for a big surprise.”

A popular question asked when trying to find out your lineage that Brower hears is, “Do you have to test again?”

“No,” said Brower, “Your DNA doesn’t change, but the way the testing companies refine their methods changes. Ironically I spend the most research time searching for my Irish and Scots ancestors from the father I never knew.

“I spend very little time on my Italian research since I already know the most about my mother’s family. Early in my 43 years of research I interviewed both my maternal grandparents, my oldest living relatives, and used records from Italy (written in Italian) along with the help of a cousin who lives outside Salt Lake City, and was able learn how to read the old Italian script and Latin handwriting that Italian records are written in.”

Upcoming seminar

Brower said if you want to know more about DNA and testing, interpreting your matches if you have already tested, as well as how to get started in researching your family you should consider attending the Nevada County Genealogical Society’s “Digging for Your Roots” 25th annual seminar to be held in Grass Valley on Saturday, Aug. 18.

Offered at the all-day seminar participants will be able to choose five classes out of the 20 classes offered that day. DNA for Genealogy Part I and II will be offered as well as a wide-variety of standard genealogy topics, including Beginning Genealogy, and several topics for using resources online.

“We bring in the best genealogy speakers in the Northern California Region to speak at our seminar each year and at our monthly genealogy meetings,” said Brower. “We have been putting on this seminar for twenty-five years in Nevada County and draw attendees from the Bay Area, Chico, and Reno, Carson City and Sparks as well as the greater Sacramento Valley Region.”

The 25th annual seminar will be held at Calvary Bible Church, 11481 State Highway 174, in Grass Valley, next to Empire Mine State Park. A box lunch will be available for an additional fee of $7 if ordered before Aug. 10. The seminar is $20 for members and $23 for non-members.

Interested participants can go to the society’s web site at to get the flyer and registration form and see the complete class schedule and titles. Each attendee will also get a bound syllabus complete with all of the speaker’s presentations.

Since this is the 25th anniversary, there will be several door prizes and a special gift for the first 100 registered. In addition, there will be vendors and used and new genealogy books sold by the society.

For more information or questions contact Maria Brower 530-272-2119 or

Source: Nevada County Genealogical Society

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