Tracing deed and document history using DNA
10th May, 2018

DNA is the current big thing in genealogy. Testing your own DNA enables you to discover your heritage and it can also allow you to find genetic relatives and expand your family tree.

Documents also contain DNA which can be tested. Initially you may think there’s little point in taking swabs from old deeds and documents, but analysing the DNA found on documents can bring back some fascinating results.

Bacteria emitted from hands and mouths (think of all those coughs and sneezes!) could tell us who touched, wrote and signed the document. With our deeds we already know who was party to the document and who signed them, but it would be interesting to find out how many people have handled a document over its lifetime. It would also be quite interesting to find out if any of our deed signatures have been forged! For us one of the main advantages of DNA testing is that it can reveal the age of an undated document.

The vast majority of our deeds are parchment which is made from animal skin. DNA testing the document could tell us about the animal and even the herd that it came from. From this we could discover where the document was made and where it’s been throughout its life. It would be interesting to find out if the parchment used by one estate during a particular period was from one herd, or if they bought parchment as and when it was required rather than keeping a stock pile.

We’re not scientists by any means but looking into the possibilities of DNA testing has been fascinating. Let us know your thoughts of extracting DNA from documents by tweeting us @AncestorHomes.


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