Marleen Van Horne is the administrator of several Surname DNA projects. She is also the list moderator of the Genealogy-DNA mailing list on Rootsweb.
Question: Please tell me about yourself. What do you do for a living?
Answer: I am retired, since 1999. Before retirement I was a systems analyst, specializing in designing, building, executing and analyzing the results of test systems for computer software, for the telephone company.
Question: What are your other hobbies and interests apart from genealogy?
Answer: I collect glass paperweights, travel, sew and do other types of handwork.
Question: What brought you to genealogy?
Answer: My son married a Mormon woman.
Question: What is your favorite part?
Answer: Finding information that other researchers have missed or over looked for many years.
Question: How did you become involved in genetic genealogy?
Answer: I signed up with Bennett Greenspan at the NGS Conference in Nashville in 2005.
Question: The need for consumer genetic testing standards has been a topic for years now. To what extent do you think government regulation is needed?
Answer: I think the government should insure the testing is done to certain standards, but beyond that, I do not think the government should be involved.
Question: Do you feel that the responsibility for consumer education lies with the testing companies, the citizen science community, or the consumer?
Answer: All three.
Question: What DNA tests have you taken?
Answer: Full Mitochondrial Sequence, Family Finder and 23andMe for medical reasons.
Question: Have you tested your family?
Answer: I have yDNA tested male cousins to confirm paternal lines wherever possible. I have Family Finder tested one cousin who shares a family relationship with each of my four grandparents.
Question: Have your or your family’s test results ever been a surprise?
Answer: I have reason to believe the man who raised my maternal grandmother was not her biological father. My grandmother had a brother whose youngest daughter had three daughters. Last year, I asked the middle daughter to do a Family Finder test for me. When the results came back, we did not match at all. My grandmother’s brother was not her grandfather. She and her sisters conferred and identified a man who was possibly their biological grandfather. The oldest sister then decided to be tested. Analysis of the Family Finder results of both sisters showed ancestral connections to the family of their designated grandfather. The youngest sister was then tested and the results of the three Family Finder tests showed the oldest sister was a half-sister to the other two. My maternal grandmother has not relatives that I can test to determine her paternal ancestry.
Question: Has genetic genealogy helped you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery?
In the Van Horne project we identified the genetic pedigree of the three immigrants to New Netherland in the 1600s, whose descendants took some version of the Van Hoorn / Van Horne / Van Horn surname. If a man descends from one of these families, we can tell him which one.
In the Oden Surname DNA Project, with yDNA testing, we have identified the genetic pedigree of three different families with that surname. In the case of one of these families we have also identified their earliest known ancestors, a brick wall that has eluded conventional researchers for almost 300 years.
Question: Do you have advice for someone starting out in genealogy or genetic genealogy DNA?
Answer: If at all possible, collect as much information as possible with conventional genealogical research. Once you have an idea of who your ancestors are, begin testing. I recommend the 67 marker yDNA test to confirm your paternal lines. While Family Finder or atDNA testing is less expensive and potentially gives you a lot of ancestors, it is pretty much useless if you are looking for the wrong male ancestral lines. About 10% of men tested find their social surnames and their biological surnames do not match.
Once your male lines of descent have been confirmed, then do atDNA testing. Try to test one relative who shares only one grandparent with you. That way, when someone matches you and your relative, you know in which part of your tree to look for common ancestors.
Question: What do you think the future holds for genetic genealogy?
Answer: In the future, every pedigree should have to be confirmed with genetic genealogy to be acceptable for publication.