Kenai Totem Tracers get crash course in DNA testing

Several community genealogy enthusiasts learned about another tool they can use to dig deeper into their pasts during a presentation from one of their own Saturday at the Kenai Community Library.

The Kenai Totem Tracers Genealogical Society is interested in most things historical, from tracing ancestry to new types of museum glass, but oral and written histories can take a person only so far. When one of the society’s members volunteered to talk about her knowledge and experience with DNA testing for genealogical purposes, the group seized on the idea, said Kari Mohn, the society’s vice president and program organizer.

“We’re always interested in anything that will further our own family research,” Mohn said. “We try to have programs that fit. First we ask for suggestions from our members and we ask members if they have something to share.”

Kasilof resident Kim Rudge-Karic is a fisheries technician for the Department of Fish and Game and got her start in DNA in the early 1990s while transporting tissue samples around the state. Seeing the samples sent off to a lab made Rudge-Karic begin to question and wonder what exactly DNA testing could reveal, she said. From there was born a great interest in genetics and Rudge-Karic has since used DNA testing companies to try to unearth information about her heritage and ancestors.

Rudge-Karic began her presentation to the Totem Tracers at the Kenai Community Library with a crash course in DNA itself; what it is, where it comes from and how it makes humans the unique people they are. She then went on to explain how testing one’s DNA can give insight into where one’s geographical origins might be traced to.

By using different kinds of DNA tests — those that use the Y chromosome only found in men, those for only women and autosomal tests that use DNA inherited from both parents — people can find potential relatives or which areas of the world their ancestors might have originated from.

Rudge-Karic stressed that the results from these tests are not exact and are actually in the form of probabilities, not hard numbers. It’s best to double check with a test company if there is any confusion and follow up with research, Rudge-Karic said, rather than interpreting test results at face value.

“A lot of times people want something hard, cut and dry,” Rudge-Karic said. “And it’s like, it’s not cut and dry, you just have to accept it.”

Not all companies that advertise such testing are working with the same databases of DNA, either. What a person’s DNA gets compared to depends on what’s already been collected by that company.

“For me personally, I was hoping she would say, ‘Oh, this is the company to use, and it’ll answer all your questions,’ and that did not happen,” Mohn said with a laugh. “I appreciated her candor, her honesty, her professional expertise.”

Still, DNA testing through various companies can be useful for potentially confirming certain relations or trends already unearthed through written history, or for bringing up potential leads to follow, Rudge-Karic and members of the society concluded.

If nothing else, the tests can provide interesting information to bring back and discuss with family members and friends, Rudge-Karic said.

“You just never know,” she said. “With the mix of people, you just never know.”

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Two snowmachine-triggered snow slabs are seen below the weather station of Seattle Ridge in Turnagain Pass on Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Chris Flowers and the Chugach Avalanche Center)
Multiple avalanches in Turnagain Pass reported Friday

The center reported Saturday that current avalanche danger was considerable above 1,000 feet and moderate below 1,000 feet.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
School district changes COVID policy for close contacts

The policy went into effect on Nov. 29

This 2010 photo shows the soon-to-be-replaced Tustumena come into Homer after spending the day in Seldovia. Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced on Saturday the state would be replacing the ferry. The replacement vessel has not yet been named, and a statewide contest will be held to name the new vessel, Dunleavy said. (Homer News File)
State moves ahead with replacement of Tustumena

The state has other plans for updating the marine highway.

A sign urging COVID-19 mitigation measures hangs at a free vaccination clinic at the Y intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways, on Tuesday, Nov. 30 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Omicron variant spurs travel restrictions locally, nationally

It’s still unclear if the omicron strain is more dangerous than other COVID variants.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Junetta Delong browses the shelves at the Soldotna Library Friends’ book and art sale at the Soldotna Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Something for everyone’

Library holds art and book sale fundraiser

Danny Dommek takes photos with Santa at Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘And to all a good night’

Soldotna celebrates Christmas in the Park

The badge for the Kenai Police Department (Clarion file)
Walmart briefly evacuated after bomb threat

The investigation is ongoing.

The new Homer Police Station, as seen Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 in Homer, Alaska. Members of the Homer Police Department officially moved into the building on Thursday. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
K-9 trooper team finds lost girl

A 12-year-old girl, poorly dressed for the elements, ran away from her downtown Homer home.

Most Read