Scientists use the DNA in postcards to solve a century-old family drama

Xavier in 1885, A young Austrian blacksmith left home to grow up. After finding a new job abroad, the pagan Xaver fell in love with his boss’s 17-year-old Catholic Jewish daughter Dina. He was subsequently fired. But this is just the beginning of this family drama.

Dina ran away from home with Xaver, and found accommodation and work in the house of Ron, the 30-year-old Jewish factory owner. In 1887, she gave birth to a son named Renc, believed to be Ron’s father. Renc accepted the Jewish ceremony and was baptized in the Catholic Church.

But Dina and Xaver have always been together, and after Xaver’s career success, the two married in 1889. Xaver admitted that Lake, who was one and a half years old at the time, was his stepson, and Ron supported the family. Xaver and Dina have three more children, including a son named Arles. During World War II, Lentz’s complete Jewish ancestry was kept secret, while he and his relatives lived in fear of being deported to a concentration camp.

His father’s secrets have been kept publicly for many years, but in the family, the true identity of Renc’s father has been passed down from generation to generation.

Fast forward to May 2017 and Cordula Haas, a forensic geneticist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, received an unusual request. The descendants of Lenk and Arles want to verify that Ron is indeed Lenk’s biological father. The family provided cheek swabs of the living offspring of Dina, Renc, and Arles for DNA analysis, and-at the tip of Haas-some postcards from Renc and Ron that might save their DNA Paste stamps on saliva residues.

Resolving kinship cases is a common task in forensic genetics, but this case is more complicated than Haas is used to. For a year and a half, she and her team tried to confirm this story, but to no avail. By October 2018, they had given up. But then, in March 2020, the family returned with more heirlooms. They found some older postcards, which were sent by Arles during a business trip in 1922.

The scientists compared the DNA under these card stamps with the DNA found on postcards that Lake sent during and after World War I travel. They found a common Y chromosome lineage, which means that the two brothers share the same father. More than a century later, the family ended their parent-child story: Xaver, not Ron, is Renc’s father.

With the consent of the family, Haas and her colleagues detailed their investigation in a report. Paper Published in the journal this month Forensic International(At the request of the family, all names have been changed.) Although this seems to be just an interesting ending to a family mystery, hundreds of years of DNA have been extracted from the relics-licked envelope lids, hair on old brushes ——Once thought to be Next big thing In the genetic pedigree. Its promise is to give anyone the opportunity to learn more about their deceased ancestors and relatives, to further review their genealogy, and possibly reunite with existing relatives.

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