SAR: Genealogy research helped by DNA testing

Posted 7/17/19

DNA test results can be an important supplement to genealogy research, Merle E. Ilgenfritz told compatriots of the Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Tennessee Sons of the American Revolution during  the July monthly chapter meeting.

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SAR: Genealogy research helped by DNA testing


DNA test results can be an important supplement to genealogy research, Merle E. Ilgenfritz told compatriots of the Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Tennessee Sons of the American Revolution during  the July monthly chapter meeting.

Ilgenfritz discussed how DNA testing can be used along with traditional research to learn more about family histories.

Ilgenfritz has 26 years of computer training, course development and consulting.  He has published computer technology related books.  He has taught over 350 different classes in his career. He combines that expertise with over 45 years of genealogy experience including 33 years using computer software to aid in his searches.

Ilgenfritz, who became an SAR member earlier this year, has presented a series of lectures on DNA for the History Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. The next program in that series will be in September.

Copies of previous presentations are available at
In his SAR presentation Ilgenfritz explained the different types of DNA tests and how each can be used in the hunt for ancestors.

Autosomal DNA is the most common test, he said, focusing on the first 22 of the 23 chromosomes contributed from each parent. But each parent, in turn, receives 23 chromosomes from each of their parents. So after seven or eight generations, he said, the segments of chromosomes can become smaller and less informative. That’s why traditional genealogy research must be part of any ancestry search, he said.

“I like to call this (autosomal DNA) the cast out the big net DNA test,” Ilgenfritz said. “When you take this test you are going to find a lot of relatives, like hundreds of relatives.”

There are two other widely used tests, he said. The Y DNA test traces only the Y chromosome which can only be passed along a paternal line, father to son. 

A mitochondrial DNA test focuses on the chromosomes passed along only by the mother to her children, both male and female. Ilgenfritz’s next program in September at the History Branch of the public library will be about mitochondrial DNA, titled “What Your Moma Gave You.”

DNA testing technology continues to expand, he said. A recent development is a DNA test on postage stamps, even if they are stuck on a letter mailed by an ancestor many years ago. That test is an expensive one, he said.

DNA crime scene testing is very reliable, he said, since there are few variables. The DNA evidence is directly compared to a suspect. If there’s a match, he said, the results are definite.

Before Ilgenfritz’s presentation, the chapter honored its 2019 Joseph R. Rumbaugh oration contest winner. Victoria (Tori) Freeman “represented   our chapter with distinction,” said chapter oration contest chairman Dennis Purvis. Freeman competed in the SAR state oration contest after winning the chapter contest. Her topic was the Federalist Papers.

Freeman was graduated from Bradley Central High School this year and plans to major in criminal justice at the University of Alabama and go to law school.

The meeting, held July 11 at the Cleveland Elks Lodge, began and ended with prayer by chapter chaplain Jim Kerr. The pledge to the American flag, salute to the Tennessee flag and SAR pledge were led respectively by members Lynn Freeman, state Senator Todd Gardenhire and Brock Harris.

The meeting was presided over by chapter First Vice President Joe White as chapter President Dr. David Chaffin was attending the SAR National Congress in Costa Mesa, California.

White introduced guests including two prospective new members. He pointed out the printed list of chapter announcements and current projects. Among them is the presentation of a local Wreaths Across America program at the Bradley County veterans section at Fort Hill Cemetery next December. 

Wreaths Across America is a national organization that places holiday wreaths on thousands of veterans’ graves, including Arlington National Cemetery, in December. In past years the chapter took part in this nationwide program at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. Chapter members will be selling wreaths for the local veterans’ cemetery beginning in August.


Anyone interested in joining the SAR can contact a Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter member; check out the website or contact Chapter Registrar E. Lynn Freeman at

The chapter can also be reached by mail at: Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter, Tennessee SAR, P.O. Box 2861 Cleveland, Tennessee, 37320



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