DNA test expert to speak at library

ELLSWORTH — DNA testing is changing lives all over the world, and in Hancock County, where genetic testing has enabled some people to discover their biological parents.

The DNA testing, which involves simply spitting into a test tube and waiting weeks for the results, has made it possible for many Hancock County residents to trace their ancestry back to Europe and other parts and discover relatives they never knew they had. On this journey, they often have been helped by genealogists at local libraries.

Nancy Milliken Mason, founder of Maine’s first DNA Interest Group in 2014, will speak about the value of genetic testing and its applications at the Eastern Maine DNA Interest Group’s monthly meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 23, at the Ellsworth Public Library.

“I help people find family lines on a daily basis,” Mason said. “I love it.”

Mason, who lives in Gray, traces her own paternal line in Maine back eight or nine generations. She will share case studies about people she’s helped to find relatives through DNA testing. Some clients are adopted and are searching for their biological family. Others are simply seeking to learn more about their lineage.

Mason is project administrator for the Maine Genealogical Project on Family Tree DNA, which connects people with a Maine heritage to common ancestors. She’s also a speaker for the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. She’s given talks about genealogy and DNA across Maine and New England as well as in Salt Lake City and Scotland.

“We call her the founding mother of the DNA arm of the Maine Genealogical Society,” said Charlene Fox Clemons, founder of the Eastern Maine DNA Interest Group. Clemons is the Ellsworth Public Library’s resident genealogist as well as its special collections cataloger.

Started last January, the Eastern Maine DNA Interest Group meets at 10 a.m. every fourth Saturday at the library. Members counsel people interested in taking a DNA test and also help them interpret their results. Everyone is welcome to come to a meeting. There are no membership fees.

“It’s really interesting,” Clemons said. “I can actually prove that this person is my great-grandmother beyond the paper records.”

For several years, Clemons has worked closely with a man who was adopted and seeking to connect with his biological family. Clemons was able to trace his mother’s line back to the 1400s.

“He’s met several cousins,” she said. “He’s even met a first cousin. He’s become friends with some of them.”

The Ellsworth Public Library has been a growing hub for genealogical research since Clemons started working there in 1992. In 1993, the library opened its Alvin S. Whitmore Collection for Genealogical Research, named after a former library trustee. The collection’s print, microform and digital data has been used by researchers from across the United States as well as Australia and England.

The Ellsworth Public Library is located at 20 State St. in Ellsworth. For more info, call 667-6363.

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