TOLEDO –– Using a laser pointer from her seat near the back of the room, Lisa McCullough highlighted a spot on the slide showing gene data which modern humans have inherited from our neanderthal ancestors.
“It’s the reason we’re alive today,” she said. “We got their immune systems.”
The genealogist spoke Saturday to a small group of Toledo seniors at a meeting of the Lincoln County Genealogical Society, teaching them about GenMatch, a computer program where those trying to trace their ancestry can upload their DNA results from services like 23andme and ancestry.com. Since the individual services that help users trace their DNA don’t share information with each other, those who use GenMatch can upload their information and see the data family members upload and what data, exactly, they have in common.
The local group helps others in the community interested in genealogy get started in digging up information on their roots.
“We can help people if they’re beginning genealogy,” said Lindsay Clark, vice president of the Lincoln County Genealogical Society. “We can help them start their family tree. It usually starts with themselves, and then they work backwards.”
Many like Clark found information about their ancestors after getting involved in the group. Clark herself found her father’s side of the family came from Norway.
“We traced it down and I found the ship his side of the family came on,” said Clark. “I also have the ship’s manifest.”
The Norwegian ship isn’t the only thing Clark and her family found in their genealogical history.
“My husband’s grandfather took Geronimo to his gravesite,” Clark said. “That was exciting. He was really excited about that.”
The presentation Saturday, while a two-hour long pitch about DNA information and ancestry-tracing platforms, piqued the interest of many who attended.
“I wanted to know in-depth what I can do with GenMatch,” said Idaho native Robbie Nyara, a retired realtor on vacation with her family. “I’ve used Ancestry and GenMatch, but I hadn’t gotten too in-depth yet.”
Platforms like GenMatch allows people to find family connections they wouldn’t otherwise have found, one workshop attendee said.
“I’ve gone to Europe maybe eight to 10 times over the years to search for relatives,” said Gene Sterud, a ceramics instructor in Waldport. “Once in a while, some will come to visit us.”