Using DNA Testing as a Family History Tool, a Nonprofit Foundation Creating the World's Largest Correlated Genetic Genealogy Database along with One of the Nation's Premier Genetic Testing Companies Provide Key to Resolving Genealogy Problem Passed Down from Father to Son; Surprising Genetic Test Results Point to Colonial Forefather as "Gateway Ancestor" for Most of Those in North America with Surname of Acree
One of the things that Chuck Acree, Jr., of Midland, Texas, inherited from his father was a family history project -- and he worked 28 years on it using traditional ancestry research methods. But finally, Acree took a cheek swab DNA test from Relative Genetics of Salt Lake City and used his genetic profile to search Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation's massive correlated genetic genealogy database. There, Acree found the way to a definitive answer to his and his father's long-standing genealogy question.
Chuck Acree, Sr. -- a popular WLS Radio personality during Chicago's Golden Age of radio in the late '30s -- had succeeded in tracing his family line back to "Cashie" John Acree, Sr., of colonial Bertie County, North Carolina, who was born in 1740. The elder Acree's years of genealogical work led him to believe that there was a forebear before "Cashie" John who was the "gateway ancestor" from whom most of America's Acrees were descended. But he couldn't prove it. When his father passed away, the younger Acree took up the genealogical challenge: Could most of the thousands of Acrees in U.S. phone books be part of a large, extended family that sprouted from one ancestor during Europeans' earliest years in North America?
Traditional genealogical searches depend on paper trails, such as census, tax, court and church records. In family history research, ancestry hobbyists routinely run into search roadblocks in which time, negligence and catastrophic events, like fire and floods, have destroyed paper records. It was not because of a lack of skill or education that the younger Acree could not solve his ancestry question in the traditional way. He has an Ivy League education focused on information technology and for years led a large federal government agency's information technology department. In 1980 as a hobby, Chuck, Jr. programmed one of the first ancestry programs available for personal computers, "Your Family Tree," written in BASIC computer language.
But after a nearly three-decade search of paper records and following up on his father's correspondence with dozens of Acrees, the younger Acree could not prove his father's hypothesis. He decided to use an ancestry tool that was not available in his father's time.
DNA testing has transformed ancestry research in the modern world as dramatically as it has altered forensic police work and diagnostic medicine. "Each individual carries a genetic record that cannot be destroyed, which is passed down from parents, grandparents and earlier ancestors," said Doug Fogg, chief operating officer of Relative Genetics. "And today's high-technology genetic testing permits that DNA record to be analyzed to help people like the Acrees reconstruct family trees and to direct their family history research."
Acree ordered a genealogically based DNA test over the Internet from Relative Genetics (www.relativegenetics.com) and sent in a sample from a swab of the inside of his cheek. "First, I had already searched for the surname 'Acree' on the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) database web site (www.smgf.org) and found another person named Acree who had donated DNA and a pedigree chart and with whom I shared a common ancestor," said Acree. "That inspired me to take a DNA test from Relative Genetics that yielded an astonishing exact match with the Acree who is in the database." The matching genetic profile proved -- all but certainly -- that both descended from "Cashie" John. Together with his traditional genealogical records, this indicates "Cashie" John's father, probably William Acree, 1710-1767, of Hanover County, Virginia, or William's father, is likely the gateway ancestor for most Acrees in the U.S. today. The Acree Surname DNA Project will now comprehensively compare other Acree genetic profiles with this one.
Ancestry research success stories abound as family history hobbyists come to Relative Genetics for assistance and as the SMGF genetic genealogy database continues to expand. The Foundation is the visionary enterprise of billionaire, philanthropist and biotechnology pioneer James LeVoy Sorenson, who intends to use the relatively new science of molecular genealogy to map the entire human family tree and make it available on a free, public database. Sorenson believes that if we prove scientifically how closely related each person is to every other, we will treat each other better. Today, the database has more than 3.1 million records from more than 100 countries.
Since 2001, Relative Genetics has provided genetic testing solutions that help genealogists build the branches of their family trees. The company's comprehensive testing services allow individuals, genealogists and family organizations around the world to establish relationships and identity through DNA testing, genetic interpretation and genealogical analysis. Relative Genetics is distinguished by its industry-leading turnaround time and its skilled staff of molecular scientists and genetic genealogists. In collaboration with its affiliated laboratory, Sorenson Genomics, Relative Genetics offers the most complete specialized genetic testing capabilities available under one roof for paternal and maternal line identification and extended family analysis.