Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan

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Networking Family by Mennonite DNA

Various groups of people began in 2004 to use DNA in search for common ancestors. Those efforts quickly resulted in a search of a broader project of the Family Tree DNA or FTDNA sample collecting project. This Genographic Project is collecting samples worldwide to further knowledge of the ancient ancestry of mankind. The Genographic Project is interested in anthropology and not directly in genealogy.

The creation of a migratory map of mankind became the goal of the five-year project that was unveiled in 2005 by genetics researchers. The privately funded "Genographic Project" is an effort to collect gene samples from people worldwide that may reveal patterns in their FTDNA. The National Geographic Society, IBM, geneticist Spencer Wells, the project director and the Waitt Family Foundation, a charity set up by Gateway Computers' founder have launched the Genographic Project. This unprecedented effort proposed that it would seek to map humanity's genetic journey through the ages.

The project is not about differences between people; it is about similarities shared by people everywhere. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is a chemical compound consisting of a sequence of hundreds of millions of nucleotides found in the nucleus of every cell in the human body, except for red blood cells. Every individual's DNA material has 26 chromosomes, composed of 23 pairs of chromosome. Half are inherited from your father and half from your mother. Much more details are studied by students in schools and is available on thousands of internet websites.

Human genomes (genetic patterns) are 99.7% identical; we all are far more similar than diverse. But those tiny three-tenths of one percent difference holds clues to our ancestries, the roots of all human migration, and even our propensity for disease. At the end of the twentieth century the term "genetic genealogy" did not even exist.

There now have been numerous projects established with goals whose primary interest is in genealogy. Surname studies are pioneering the use of DNA in combination with traditional genealogical research to trace ancestry over the past few hundred years. Surname projects are organized to make it easy to share DNA results for genealogical purposes. Glenn Penner and Tim Janzen have taken major initiative to engage in a Mennonite DNA Project with an original goal of studying the network of surnames that can be viewed on a website posted by Richard Thiessen:

The Low-German Mennonites are descended from those Anabaptists/Mennonites who settled in northern Poland, Prussia and the then larger territory of Lithuania from the early 1500s to the mid 1700s. The majority of these people were from the Netherlands, with large proportions coming from Switzerland, Germany and other areas stretched along the Danube River tributary. In 1772 a large part of Poland was partitioned, with the region where the majority of Mennonites lived going to Prussia. A second partition put nearly all of the Mennonites in Prussian territory. Most of these Mennonites lived in the province of West Prussia. In the subsequent two and half centuries the descendents of this group scattered to the east in Ukraine and Russia and crossed the Atlantic to the Americas.

We have a power-point presentation on the Mennonite DNA Project ready for you. You may open it as a PDF file in your browser by clicking, (right-click to download); Update Mennonite Genealogical Resources (PDF). Or open it as a power-point, Update Mennonite Genealogical Resources (PPT).

Or if you wish to save it to your computer first, download and unzip; Update Mennonite Genealogical Resources (ppt.ZIP)

Here is also a power-point presentation by Tim Janzen on DNA testing applications for Mennonite Genealogists. You may open it as a PDF file in your browser by clicking, (right-click to download); DNA Testing Applications for Mennonite Genealogists2 (4 Aug 2007) (PDF). Or open it as a power-point, DNA Testing Applications for Mennonite Genealogists2 (4 Aug 2007) (PPT). Or if you wish to save it to your computer first, download and unzip; DNA Testing Applications for Mennonite Genealogists2 (4 Aug 2007)(ppt.ZIP).

[last updated - Dec/2/2021]
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Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan

Room 900 - 110 La Ronge Road,
Saskatoon, SK, S7K 7H8
Archive Hours: Monday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. & by appointment on Wed. evening.