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So Historians Are Surprised by What DNA Can Tell Us?

Historians in the News
tags: DNA



Pearl Duncan is completing is completing manuscripts for two books, one about the genealogy, adventures and DNA of her ancient, medieval and colonial African, European and American ancestors, and another about the identity, owner and mystery of the 18th-century century merchant cargo World Trade Center ship.

Those of us who have not yet seen the new reports about Richard III should read this commentary about the king’s DNA and what the new discoveries say about history.

 What is most surprising to me however is that historians are surprised at this news and revelations.  Dusty documents reveal what the recorders of history, whether they are family members, royals or politicians, choose to say and to record for posterity.  DNA, however, reveals what may have actually happened.  In the case of ancestry, DNA is now revealing tidbits our ancestors never expected would be revealed and thought they had buried as secrets. 

 When I did the narrative for my book about my ancestors’ DNA and ancestry, whether I was writing about relationships in medieval Ghana, relationships in medieval Scotland, relationships in colonial Jamaica and in Virginia and other parts of the U.S., I found lost and unknown tales that coincided with DNA, and I also found new tales that contradicted the DNA. 

For example, because my Scottish ancestors were wealthy nobles who competed for the throne in Scotland and England, they were notorious in ensuring that there was always a male heir, however they had to accomplish this feat. They switched babies, claimed babies that were not theirs, and had relations to ensure that they would have male descendants to carry on the chain of male heirs.  Surprisingly, these shenanigans are known, are discussed, and laughed about.  I’ve had fabulous discussions with the lords, my ancestral Scottish cousins, who know this history. 

 I always tell genealogists that documentary history and genealogy should be confirmed with DNA comparisons, and even then, the results may be limited for some of the people with whom we can do comparisons.  History, as we know it, is evolving, and scientific testing is part of everyday life and part of history.



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