Man traces ancestry, uses genealogy tests

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MINERSVILLE – Jim Huratiak, a member of the Carpatho-Rusyns chapter in Wayne, New Jersey, spoke to a group of people Saturday interested in finding their ancestors using DNA at Ss. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic Church.


Huratiak was born and raised in Schuylkill Haven and lives in the Philadelphia area. His interest in tracing ancestry began in 1992.


“I wanted to find out who I was,” he said. “Unfortunately, everyone on my father’s side had passed away so I had no one to ask.”


During his presentation, “DNA: Another tool in the genealogists toolbox,” Huratiak said his ancestry begins with Carpatho-Rusyns, an ethnic group who live along the Carpathian Mountains in Europe.


Huratiak’s journey began with information he found from his father’s baptism document. He also received help on a Schuylkill County genealogy chat room that he uses for new ways to find his ancestors.


In 2004, DNA began to be used in finding ancestors. Huratiak got a DNA test which greatly increased the number of ancestors he could find.


Huratiak said his mother’s side of his family has the surname Yoder. He said he has done well finding the Huratiak side of his family, but “hit a wall” in his research for Yoder ancestors. He currently has family members as far back as the Civil War era in the Yoder line but is still working to find new information.


“Unless I can find some information on a shipwreck or something, I’m stuck right now,” he said.


MtDNA, also known as mitochondrial DNA, can be tested to follow a mother’s side of ancestry. Since women traditionally take their husband’s surname following marriage, using mt-DNA can sometimes be more helpful than using birth records and other documents in tracing the maternal line, Huratiak said.


A full mtDNA test costs $199 on Males inherit mtDNA from their mother but cannot pass it on.


Huratiak said genealogy is “strictly a hobby” for him and does not research ancestry professionally but has helped others who ask for his assistance. For those wanting to find their ancestors, Huratiak suggested starting with records.


“The find is the most exciting part,” Huratiak said.


For Huratiak, and have been worthwhile. Huratiak said that he found matches with his Y-DNA, inherited from his father, for an ancestor as far back as 19 generations ago, an estimated 600 years.


“There are 1,024 ancestors for every generation,” Huratiak said.


Y-DNA follows a surname. The basic cost of a Y-DNA test is $49 for 12 markers. Markers trace similarities between the genetic codes of two or more people.


“The more markers you purchase, the closer you can get to finding ancestors,” Huratiak said.


Searching for Y-DNA matches can be done on websites such as Huratiak said this site doesn’t require the user to take a test or sign up in order to look at the index. Huratiak first tested for Y-DNA with


“This isn’t a family tree,” he said. “You have to do the work. It cannot directly determine a relationship. It can give us a ballpark on how many generations we were related but not how.”


Huratiak also said he would suggest others to get into finding their ancestors.


“It would be nice. The more people who take DNA tests, the better chances of finding relatives,” he said.


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