DNA can help us connect to our ancestors in a way that a name on a census record can't by connecting us to living cousins, descendants of our ancestors, people who are living today, people we can contact and share research with, people who can help us in our common search for knowledge about our shared ancestry.
Here's my deepest concern about the Global Family Reunion: Has the marketing of it been so successful that we're in danger of changing the definition of genealogy? The interest in famous cousins has always been there, but has its prominence in the GFR's PR campaign been such that many will think that's the whole point?
Instead of focusing entirely on William Weikert, we wanted to learn more about his family, acquaintances, and the Iowa communities where he lived. Finding details about the lives of extended family members and even neighbors can often lead us back to common ancestors shared by different individuals on their separate family trees.
As all genetic testing databases continue to grow, life-changing, personal discoveries are becoming more and more common. And in aggregate, these genetic relationships -- which science only recently could prove -- will continue to reveal more mind-boggling statistics about the connections between all of us
It's a safe bet that you should always start with the United States census when you're beginning the search for an American ancestor. The federal census, which actually was first taken in our young Republic in 1790 and then every ten years after that, can give you the nuts and bolts you need to start a more extensive search.