March 26, 2017

DNA Confirms Presidential Love Affair 90 Years Later

Presidential love affairNew evidence in a 90 year-old paternity case came to light recently in the form of a DNA test. This one had the unique distinction of involving the president of the United States: Warren G Harding.

The New York Times recently named former president Warren G Harding (1865-1923) as the father of Elizabeth Ann Blaesing after her son, James Blaesing, and two individuals related to the Hardings, were found to have shared DNA.

Just to be clear, the DNA test results don’t and can’t name a specific relative as the shared source of any two individual’s DNA. Though we would like it to be, it is not DNA in, ancestors name and birth certificate out. The actual report from the testing company was that James Blaesing and Peter and Abigail Harding were second cousins.  This means that the shared ancestral couple for these three has to be among their 4 sets of great grandparents. The DNA alone cannot tell us which set. It was a combination of the DNA and the known genealogy that provided such a high level of confidence in this case.

While there are certainly mixed feelings among members of the Harding family about this new evidence, this is clearly a win for DNA. A man who was thought to have never had children did in fact have one child, and now a grandchild. This preserves a genetic legacy for his family line that might have otherwise been lost.

This is also a clear win for the power of curious descendants and the healing balm of time.  It was actually Harding’s grand niece and grand nephew who instigated the testing out of a pure desire to know the truth.  Time has allowed them this curiosity without threat of scandal and technology has provided the necessary tools to once and for all more fully understand their ancestor and the life he lived.

AncestryDNA declared after this story broke that DNA testing can rewrite history, which may be true.  However, I prefer to think of DNA testing not as white out that can erase false accusations, but rather as a filter that allows you to separate fact from fiction so that history can reflect lives rather than lies.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesWhat will DNA testing do for you? Learn more with my laminated Super bundle of DNA quick reference guides. The set includes:

  • Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist
  • Getting Started Genetics for the Genealogist
  • Mitochondrial DNA for the Genealogist
  • Y Chromosome DNA for the Genealogist
  • Understanding Ancestry: A Companion Guide to Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist
  • Understanding Family Tree DNA: A Companion Guide to Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist

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About Diahan Southard

Diahan Southard is Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems! She has worked with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, and has been in the genetic genealogy industry since it has been an industry. She holds a degree in Microbiology and her creative side helps her break the science up into delicious bite-sized pieces for you. She's the author of our DNA guides Getting Started: Genetics for Genealogists, and Y Chromosome DNA for Genealogists (click STORE in the menu above)