Kristin Butcher

DNA is quickly becoming a tool for genealogists in confirming links

Geneology with Kristin Butcher

One of the things I admire about the British is the way they embrace their past—warts and all.

Unlike Canadians, who have the broom out and the corner of the carpet lifted at the first hint of a scandal, the British tend to celebrate the foibles of their ancestors, insuring they will always be remembered. Who doesn’t know about Henry VIII and his many wives? And what about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson? The man gave up his throne for the woman he loved! It doesn’t get any more romantic than that.

There are endless juicy stories associated with the royals, but perhaps one that has stirred up the most dust in recent years is that of Richard III. He was the last Plantagenet king. He was also a hunchback, but, by all reports, an amazing soldier nevertheless. He died on Bosworth Field in 1485. He was 32. A horse, a horse; my kingdom for a horse! Ring any bells? Yes, that was him.

Those were treacherous times. England was embroiled in the War of the Roses, and there were plots being hatched at every turn. So it’s small wonder, Richard was accused of murdering his two young nephews. They were in line to inherit the throne, and in some people’s eyes that meant Richard stood in their way. Kill or be killed, I suppose. Still, there is no proof—at least not yet.

But that could all change. In 2012 Richard III’s remains were found under a carpark, where Greyfriars Church once stood—the site of Richard’s burial. Not only did the bones confirm the person buried there was a hunchback, but mitochondrial DNA, passed down from Richard’s sister to two living relatives today confirmed the bones were indeed those of Richard III. How big a stretch can it be to link him to his nephews’ murders? I’m sure time will tell.

DNA! It’s amazing stuff. We’ve always had it, but until recently, scientists hadn’t figured out how to use it. That’s quickly changing. Not only does DNA help the police track down ‘who-dun-it’, it has now become a tool for genealogists.

Having your DNA analyzed can clear up many family relationship questions. It helps establish and define links you weren’t sure of. Through the use of DNA, you can now definitively confirm or eliminate possible family members. Some DNA markers help to place your ancestors in their lands of origin. There are tests for women and others for men, so you can chase down both maternal and paternal lines. Those who’ve been tested can share their findings on a database, which provides another source for tracking down relatives.

Interested in finding out more?

Contact the Campbell River Genealogy Society: