Facial images created from dna
June 30, 2013
With the new advancement in DNA, it may be possible to have a picture of your ancestor in the future simply by presenting a DNA sample to artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg. We used to think that simply finding our origins was really an accomplishment, but now we may be able to experience more by her unorthodox experimentation with combining art and science.
Heather collects discarded gum, cigarettes and hair from public restrooms left by unsuspecting subjects. She has a local laboratory in Brooklyn extract DNA from these samples. Then, takes it to her studio and somehow uses the results to construct a facial image of the subject. The building blocks from the samples are enough for her to construct a complex life-like 3D sculpture of each of these anonymous subjects.
It seems like science fiction, but she says she is able to use the knowledge from her previous work experience in a DNA lab. She says from the sample she can unlock gender, ancestry, eye color, hair color, freckles, skin color—either light or dark—and even nose width and distance between the eyes. She is not able to determine the age of the subjects, so she casts each one as about 25 years old.
She displays the sculptural images at a local art gallery. She says that so far no one has recognized his or her likeness. I would love to have images of a couple of my ancestors, wouldn’t you? Wonder if this will ever happen. You can see more about her on her website, http://deweyhagborg.com/.
USING MARKS AND BRANDS TO IDENTIFY ANCESTOR’S ARRIVAL: Cattle roamed free before barbed wire fenced the pastures. Farmers and ranchers used a marking system to identify the cattle. The early settlers used mostly brands, a type of tattoo, or ear notches. The purpose for this identification is still the same, to separate your cattle from another farmer’s stock.
The county courthouse usually keeps the recorded cattle identification but it might be found in a different agency. The book of Marks and Brands in Collin County is in the County Clerk’s office. In these books, the brand is carefully drawn next to the name of the owner. This book also has ear notches or ear tags that identify the owners.
The cattle in our pasture do not wear a brand; instead, they have small ear tags that are different from the huge ear tags worn by the cattle west of us. Often, a stray or two get out of the west fence and wander the area. Anyone can glance at the ear tag and immediately ascertain the owner and notify them.
The Marks and Brands identified an ancestor in Emanuel County, Georgia. I knew he was there later on but he filed his brand nine years before he appeared on a census and six years before I found him on the tax rolls. If you cannot find your ancestor, then maybe a quick look into the Marks and Brands will place him in the county.
For more on Texas law and codes involving brands in Texas, visit http://law.justia.com/codes/texas/2005/ag/006.00.000144.00.html.
CONNECTING ANCESTORS ON FAMILY SEARCH AND BILLION GRAVES: It is now simple to connect the images found on the BillionGraves.com site straight to FamilySearch.org site with the click of a button. The instructions say to go to the Tools tab on BillionGraves and click FamilySearch from the dropdown menu. You are immediately able to start connecting your family members’ records, or other records, to the FamilySearch records. You can also attach any record by clicking on “Link to Family Search” on any of the records pages. The introduction, Tutorial on Matching with FamilySearch Family Tree, is available on YouTube. You will have to register with FamilySearch, but it is defiantly free. Next, click “Get Started” followed by “Choose a cemetery” on the drop-down menu under the top left FamilySearch icon and hit “Go.” When BillionGraves records pops up, look for any FamilySearch matches on the right-hand-side that match the information on the headstone. If it matches, click “Match” or if no matches click “Next.” This certainly simplifies your record searches.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.