The O’Leary DNA Test Project.


What on earth is DNA you might ask.  DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is defined as “The main constituent of the chromosomes of all organisms -- in the form of a double helix.  It is self replicating and is responsible for the transmission of hereditary characteristics.”  In layman’s terms, it is the structure within your cells which determines all your human characteristics such as the colour of your eyes, your hair and your skin.  It is the formula which makes you unique and easily identified as a special individual person.


Since 1984, when it was discovered, there has been much use made of DNA in forensic work, to the point where Courts all over the World are beginning to accept DNA as sound proof when left by a murderer or attacker at the place of his crime.  You have probably seen the film or read the book.  The murderer commits his crime, but leaves evidence on his victim’s body of his own blood or other bodily fluids.  The detective spots these stains and has them analysed in the police laboratory.  The police laboratory has an identical match in it’s existing records, and the police go round next day to arrest the murderer.


I use the word “police” advisedly.  Such activity would normally take place in the USA where DNA Data Banks are now common in some States.  In other countries in the World such as Ireland or England, cases like this are still rare.


Today we are beginning to see another extension of the use of DNA to Genealogy. This is because each individual person has a chromosome pattern which is unique to him and his immediate forbears, and if found in two people links them genealogically to a very precise  and determinable degree.  Any man’s natural  son will probably have a chromosome pattern which is identical to his father’s.  That word “probably” is important, but we are talking about, say, a 95% probability or higher. 


Equally any man’s grandson will probably have a chromosome pattern which is identical to his grandfather.  But now the probability will be slightly less than the previous case.  You get the picture.  As the number of generations between you and your forbear increase, so the probability of an exact match begins to decrease.  At some point there will be a mutation or change in one element of the pattern.  Whereas previously there was a 26/26 match, this will now decrease to 25/26.  This means 25 of the characteristics in the 26 in the male chromosome will be identical, but one will be different. 


In these early days in its genealogical use, we are mainly concerned with the testing of the male y-chromosome.  This is quite appropriate since most serious genealogical work is also confined to the male paternal line of a family.


DNA Projects involve testing members of one family, e.g., the male members of a Clan such as the (O)Learys where all those tested and compared are men born with the (O)Leary name.


There are not many laboratories yet in the World set up to carry out such work. What is needed and will eventually arise, are central data banks of information containing the data of a population. At present such data banks are normally only available as police or hospital records. We are using an organisation called Relative Genetics from Salt Lake City. A very appropriate place which  

has become virtually the centre of World conventional genealogy due to the efforts of the Mormon Church.


Our Team Leader is Bonnie Norma O’Leary Harvey from Sarasota, Florida, whose devotion and energy has driven the Trial Project along.  We are indebted to Bonnie, and most fortunate to have had the use of her services.


The small pilot scheme has involved about 22 interested men, all (O)Learys, of whom 12 have their test results, and a few more will follow later.  It is a very small sample, but has proved successful, and will become even more so, as and when the sample size is increased.


The results have been amazing.  One of the 12 turned out to be from a totally unrelated family group.  Two others have a 26/26 result ie. are closely related within the past 5 generations, a fact they did not know.  4 others have more distant relationships established.  Only 5 were not proven to have  such a relationship yet, but one could well be established in the future as further results come in.


The costs of joining the Tests are $195 which might have put off some possible entrants.  These costs should come down in the future.  Others who paid up, regard this cost as trivial compared to what they have spent, and wasted, over past years in trying out the established and conventional resources, such as searching for birth, baptism, marriage and death records.  Churches only started keeping such records  in the period 1775-1825.  State official records usually start in about 1865.  In the early days of these records, whether church or state, the quality is poor and many records are missing, damaged or destroyed.  In any case, most of us want to go back much further than this, since even 1775 only represents about six generations.


The actual test itself is a swab in the mouth which is painless and done by yourself and in the privacy of your own home. Everyone interested in  a serious, fool-proof determination of where they fit into their family tree, should seriously consider joining an appropriate DNA Test Project as soon as one becomes available.  If one is not available yet, how about starting one up.  You will probably never regret it.