It seems that anything and everything has its own special day. So for genealogists why not have National DNA Day? Yeah why not have a day to celebrate our DNA? Well why should we have a day to honor DNA. Well read on and I will explain to you why in this post.
On April 25th 1953 four biologists James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, together with other colleagues, published papers that were included in the scientific journal Nature explaining the structure of DNA, otherwise known as the Double Helix.
Fast forward then fifty years to 2003 on that very day it was announced that the Human Genome Project was very nearly close to completion. It took scientists 13 years to complete this mammoth project.
This project was set out to sequence the nucleotide base pairs that essentially make up human DNA. And so on this date in 2003 there were only a few remaining gaps to decipher.
Then in 2003 in the United States April 25th DNA Day was first celebrated. It was though intended to just be a one-time celebration. The National Human Genome Research Institute, (more on them later), let DNA Day celebrations from 2003 onwards. Since then this date has been declared International DNA Day and also World DNA Day by various groups around the world.
National DNA Day – April 25th (also known as International DNA Day and World DNA Day)
What Is DNA?
DNA is the coding or genetic information that tells us what eye color we should have, the color of our hair, the color of our skin, and so on. The exact number of cells in the human cannot be determined but we do know that nearly every cell has this DNA structure.
You maybe surprised to know that we are all in fact 99.9% identical to each other. It is only the 0.1% that matters and makes us all different, (apart from identical twins that is).
This DNA is passed down to us from our ancestors and so effectively it can tell us about our family’s past. Scientists use what are called markers, (the differences between each of us), to find clues about our past. They then use these clues against a database of records to build up a picture of where we came from.
It is quite an extraordinary and wonderful science. You can read more about it by reading my What Is A Genealogy DNA Test post.
National Human Genome Research Institute
The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) organize events each year on April 25th celebrating the discovery of human DNA. They arrange for speakers to enter halls and speak to students and discuss to them what DNA is and the importance of it. The general public can also learned about DNA as well.
So what does the NHGRI now that the Genome Project was completed over a decade ago?
Due to the completion of the Human Genome Project it has led to the Genomic Era, and so has opened up a totally new area of science to explore. The new direction, or rather goals, is to look at understanding the biology of diseases and also advancing the science of medicine.
The institute has been reorganized and a new program called the Extramural Research Program has started up. This program has been divided into four divisions which will help complete their new goals in understanding more about the nature of the human genome.
What Can You Do On This Day?
Now that you know a little more about DNA and the importance of this date you maybe wondering what you can do to get involved. The DNA inside of us has been passed on for countless generations so what better to learn about it than by discovering our ancestors along the way.
There are many activities that you can participate in to celebrate DNA Day. But I should point out that you do not necessarily need to do it just on April 25th. Why not participate in the learning and discovery of DNA throughout the year?
Some activities that you can do:
- Essay contests – How about you write an essay on the importance of DNA?
- Strawberry DNA Extraction – Learn about DNA through strawberries. An interesting way to learn about this science through fruit.
- Learn about the timeline of the human genome – Discover the history behind this science by learning the Mendel’s work with peas back in the mid 1800s.
- Learn about the exploration of ancient DNA – How about you learn what was discovered from fossilized remains and feces, permafrost cores and also other unusual sources of DNA.
There are just so many different ways for you to become involved on DNA Day, (and any other day of the year). Please take a look at the Get Activity Ideas page of the NHGRI site for more ideas.
Personally I like to learn. I like to read about science and also history as well. So what better way for me to learn about DNA and my ancestors than by doing a DNA test to discover where my ancestors came from. There are many different DNA testing companies that you can chose from to find out about your family history.
The three major ones are 23andMe, AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA. With these companies you provide a sample of your saliva with a test kit and send it back. It usually takes 6 to 8 weeks to get your results back then.
By far the most popular of the three is Ancestry as its large databases contain billions of records and have literally millions of members. There are two main benefits of DNA testing program.
The first is that you can find out your ethnicity background and secondly you have the possibility of being linked up to distant cousins that are members to the Ancestry website.
DNA testing has become the latest tool for genealogists and can help you break down any brick walls that you may have encountered in your research. So if you are struggling to know which direction to go next to find your ancestors then why not give DNA testing a go.
There is just so much that you can explore through this area of science. It just opens up so many new branches of your family tree and can connect you with relatives that you never knew existed before.
Imyself have been astounded as to the ‘long lost’ family members that I have met while tracing my family tree.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this post giving you a guide as to what National DNA Day is all about. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.
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