Phillip G. Goff, GGFA DNA Project Manager

[Reprinted from the Spring 2006 issue of Goffs/Goughs: Their Ancestors and Descendant]

When you were a kid, did you ever play the game in which you reached into a box and had to identify an object only by touch? Rectangular block of felt – it’s an eraser! But what was that metal rectangular object with glass tubes in it? Sometimes guessing was easy, but often the thing remained a mystery until wrested from its hiding place.

Genealogical research can be akin to that childhood game. Family researchers rely on official and personal records, as well as personal recollections, to trace their lineage. In general, these recollections and records are reliable and available in the present day, but become vague and scant further back in time. Early sources hint at relationships, but are subject to interpretation by the researcher, much like deducing the mystery object based on weight, shape, and texture. The box has now been opened and we can directly view DNA for clues to our GENE-alogy.

I am the administrator for the Goff-Gough Surname DNA Study (the “Study”). Through this and future articles, I will focus on what DNA testing can do for your genealogical research and report on the progress of the Study. So, let’s get started. There are several types of DNA testing, each with strengths and weaknesses for genealogy research.

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DNA testing does not replace traditional genealogical research, but rather is new tool in the genealogist’s kit. While DNA testing can prove or disprove that two men are related through a common paternal ancestor within a certain timeframe, it cannot identify their exact relationship. It is not uncommon for a man to match his nephew’s haplotype, but to differ from his son’s haplotype by one mutation. With the certainty of a connection established through DNA testing, traditional research can be conducted more effectively. Members of the Goff-Gough Family Association are particularly fortunate to have twentythree years of this newsletter indexed and linked online for this research.

(By the way, the metal rectangular object with the glass tubes in the mystery box was a small level that a carpenter might use.)

We need more participants in the Goff/Gough Surname DNA Study. For more information, please check our DNA Surname Study pages or email me at Each new participant helps to fill in the history of the Goff/Gough families.

Phillip Goff is the co-author, along with Roy L. Lockhart, of The Four Goff Brothers of Western Virginia. Since 2004, he has run the Goff/Gough Surname DNA Study, which today has over 100 participants.

2 thoughts on “Peering Into the Gene

  1. Avatar
    Robert Patterson says:

    I printed this article to read and absorb so I will better understand your research. Thanks so much for including me in your ongoing studies of these families.

  2. We will soon be adding an index of all of the DNA articles that have been printed in our newsletter.

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