Stalking strangers' DNA to fill in the family tree





They swab the cheeks of strangers and pluck hairs from corpses. They travel hundreds of miles to entice their suspects with an old photograph, or sometimes a free drink. Cooperation is preferred, but not necessarily required to achieve their ends.

Derrell Teat, determined in her research, once waited outside a restaurant with a test kit hoping to capture a reluctant would-be relative’s DNA on a coffee cup.

If the amateur genealogists of the DNA era bear a certain resemblance to members of a “CSI” team, they make no apologies. Prompted by the advent of inexpensive genetic testing, they are tracing their family trees with a vengeance heretofore unknown...

By next year, close to half a million people will have taken a DNA genealogy test, according to estimates from companies that provide them. The tests detect genetic markers that distinguish the descendants of an individual and reveal if two people share a recent common ancestor.



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