DNA testing can help prove lineage.

John C. Carter always thought it would be really neat if there were a scientific way to prove that his great-grandfather, Alexander Carter, was indeed the out-of-wedlock offspring of a wealthy Maryland doctor named Alexander Hardcastle.

"I'd heard all kinds of family stories since the late 1970s that he (Hardcastle) was the father of my great-grandfather," said Carter, who lives in St. Petersburg. "Since it's my father's line, these family tales have always held a fascination for me."

"And there was all kinds of circumstantial evidence. One of my second cousins was named after a member of the Hardcastle family. My great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Carter never married. On my great- grandfather's death certificate, his father's name is given as Alexander Carter, but we figured the family may have given the name Alexander and the clerk just assumed the surname was Carter."

But if the recent results of a DNA test are accurate, the father of Elizabeth Carter's only child was not the man who lived next door.

Carter's interest in DNA testing was piqued when it became a popular way to help solve crimes and prove paternity. He thought it might help him determine his lineage but dismissed the notion when he learned private labs charged $400 a pop to conduct such testing.

"I didn't want to spend that much money to satisfy my curiosity," Carter said. Then he read about the DNA testing being conducted by Brigham Young University in my Jan. 13, 2001, column.

(In March 2000, the BYU Molecular Genealogy Research Group began compiling a database of 100,000 blood samples from 500 worldwide populations to give researchers an understanding of the genetic makeup of the world and to identify markers from specific areas of the world. Ultimately, individuals will be able to compare their DNA samples to those in the database.)

"I learned the same (BYU) group would be conducting testing in Maryland and Delaware, and it reminded me of the whole Hardcastle situation," he said. Carter leapt into action.

Carter discussed his interest with a BYU team that visited Largo last February and was eventually referred to Relative Genetics, a Utah lab that handles personal requests.

The lab agreed to test Carter and Thomas Hardcastle, who Carter believed to be his fifth cousin. David Hicks of Pennsylvania, a first cousin through Carter's paternal line who was also born out of wedlock, participated for optimum sample comparison. Carter sent a blood sample. The others sent buccal samples (mouth swabs). The cost was $130 per person.

Months passed. The results, which finally arrived in the mail, contained good news and bad news.

The test proved that David Hicks is John Carter's biological first cousin. It also indicated that Thomas Hardcastle and John Carter did not share a common male ancestor.

Carter is disappointed but undaunted. Through the years he has met other Hardcastle descendants online. Though his chances of proving a relationship with the Hardcastle line is slim, Carter hopes to get one or two descendants from other Hardcastle lines to agree to be tested to remove all doubt. He's already put out feelers

"It's kind of an awkward thing to ask someone to give their DNA for a test," Carter said. "In this day and age, people don't want to give out personal information. But I've been working on this line for over 20 years. If I can get a couple of other Hardcastle 'cousins' to participate, it will help solidify the results one way or the other."

Want to connect your family lines through DNA analysis? Contact Relative Genetics at (801) 461-9769 or e-mail diahan@relativegenetics.com.(Note: Relative Genetics was purchased by Ancestry and is no longer in business.)

"I will review each request and determine if the tests are available, and then I will send out collection kits to the participants," general supervisor Diahan Southard said in an e-mail interview. "The sample collection is done by rubbing a swab on the inside of the cheek. The swab is then placed in an envelope and mailed back to me. It's easy and painless."

Copyright © 2002 Donna Murray Allen. All rights reserved.
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