Answer Man

August 5, 2014

Answer Man: For just $99, you can find your cousins

Answer Man

Got questions? You've come to the right place

While doing a genealogy search, I may have stumbled upon a cousin I did not know about. How do I go about using a DNA kit to prove my suspicion? -- M.T., of Collinsville

Growing another branch on your family tree will be a snap -- as long as you're willing to lay down about $200 for the fertilizer. In the end, though, it may turn out to be a far more productive investment than you ever imagined.

That's the word from Mark Bauer, who, as a member of the St. Clair County Genealogical Society, has been helping residents put down their genealogical roots for nearly 30 years.

It's easy to do. You can find a number of companies offering DNA kits on the Internet by searching for "DNA test for genealogy." All you have to do is order them, follow the simple instructions and then send it back. In just a few weeks, you should know whether you have a new family member.

Bauer suggests ordering an AncestryDNA kit through ancestry.com. If you don't like computers, call 1-800-ANCESTRY (262-3787).

"There are other places, but the big one right now is ancestry.com," he says.

For starters, it seems to be the least expensive and one of the most comprehensive that I've found. The kit costs $99, but, of course, you'll need to order two to test both yourself and your potential cousin. (Sorry, they can't use hair, skin, etc.)

Testing is a breeze, according to Richard, the ancestry.com representative I spoke with. Since saliva samples from both parties are necessary, you and your cousin merely spit into tubes and return them. Within 6-8 weeks, they will send you the results.

Those results will have two principal findings, Richard said. First, it will reveal your ethnic background -- what percentage of different nationalities is in your makeup. Second, it will confirm or disprove any family link.

But as they say on TV infomercials, wait, there's more! Here's where you may strike even more gold: They will compare your DNA to all other samples that have been submitted to see whether there may be other matches of which you didn't have the slightest inkling.

"The advantage with using ancestry.com is they have a much, much larger database, so there will be more chances of you crossing paths with a relative you were not even aware of," Bauer said. "That has happened quite a lot."

Moreover, as more people submit samples to ancestry.com, you will receive ongoing notification of new matches. And, I asked Richard very specifically: This is all included in the $99 kit price; you do not have to subscribe to ancestry.com, which offers additional research benefits that cost $200 to $400 a year depending on membership level.

Of course, this is all contingent that you allow your DNA records to be kept on file. Knowing how some people may be skittish about that, ancestry.com says it will delete all records at any time if you ask.

The site further says that all results are stored in an encrypted database and any remaining DNA from your test is archived and stored in a temperature-controlled, secure facility. Plus, the testing is done by a third-party U.S. lab, which is not given any of your personal information. Instead, it uses only an activation code provided by ancestry.com.

I'm not trying to be a shill for ancestry.com. I'm only trying to offer helpful tips on what to watch for if you look at other sites such as www.familytreedna.com and www.23andme.com. Carefully read each site's policies and try a quick overview at a site like genealogy.about.com/od/dna_genetics/a/dna-tests.htm.

Hope you have to add to your shopping list this Christmas.

The rumor mill has it that Tim Ezell at KTVI-TV is leaving or already has left to pursue the ministry. Can you validate? -- T.L., of Belleville

Apparently you were watching the Today Show again when Channel 2 colleagues gave the zany Ezell an appropriate sendoff on his final day, July 18.

As I mentioned in a May column, Ezell last year became lead pastor of The Journey in South St. Louis County, one of a family of non-denominational churches in the area.

"This is what God has called me for, and I need to dedicate all of my time to it," said Ezell, who is the son of a Methodist minister in Louisiana.

And, before anyone asks, yes, KMOX's Ralph Graczak, whose mellifluous voice soothed listeners through the wee hours, retired last weekend after 26 years. You can hear his sayonara interview with Charlie Brennan if you search for "Graczak" at KMOX.com.

Today's trivia

Where is the oldest surviving pro baseball stadium?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: When Frank Fleer developed his first bubble gum in 1906, he called it Blibber-Blubber. Unfortunately, since it reportedly had the consistency of Silly Putty with bubbles that splattered, it was never marketed. Finally in 1928, an accountant at Fleer found the secret ingredient -- latex -- and the company began marketing Dubble Bubble, coloring it pink because it was the only food coloring handy.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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