10 March 2019

DNA Standards - Part 6

For "DNA Standards - Part 1" see https://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/2019/03/dna-standards-part-1.html. In the first part I paraphrased the standards for using DNA evidence for genealogy into bullet points.

This is the post for "DNA Standards - Part 6."


Prior bullets are discussed in other parts of this series:

In "DNA Standards - Part 6" I further discuss the seventh bullet. The main bullet indicates considerations when using DNA to help answer a research question; sub-items explain what is needed to accomplish the tasks defined in the main bullet:

  • identify familial relationships (where appropriate), present the conclusion as a genetic link only if the DNA supports that conclusion, explain any insufficient research (Standards 50, 56, 65, 74)
    • no researcher is required to use DNA, but, where available and appropriate, DNA is such a strong piece of evidence for biological relationships that ignoring it is imprudent
      • trying to use atDNA to prove biological relationships further back than five to seven generations is not always possible, but sometimes is when random recombination results in segments remaining unbroken over several generations (you do not know what you will find until you look)
      • trying to use Y-DNA or mtDNA is not always possible if no living test takers have the Y-DNA or mtDNA of interest to this research question or if those with the DNA needed are not willing to test
    • no researcher is required to use DNA, but not using DNA when trying to prove a biological or genetic relationship will make many suspect the conclusion may not be accurate
      • researchers who have not yet learned to use DNA may take this risk (no DNA police will come knocking on your door, but knowledgeable researchers may wonder why DNA was not used)
      • researchers who have not yet learned to use DNA may hire someone who has educated themselves on using this source (just as one might hire a German researcher for research in Germany, a photographic expert for photo repairs, or an editor for a book)
    • if DNA is not available because there are no living test takers or none willing to test, indicating this informs the reader that DNA was considered and is not available
      • no living test takers with the right DNA is similar to the records being burned in a courthouse fire
      • no person willing to test is similar to the source being held in a repository that restricts access
      • we have dealt with these issues with paper records for years and can apply the same logic to DNA

    • if DNA evidence is not considered, knowing the rate of misattributed parentage seen in most lines, reasonable researchers may conclude a genetic or biological relationship is not proven
    • if no specific familial relationships is specified and if DNA is not used, reasonable researchers may conclude a genetic or biological relationship is not proven even if such a relationship is implied
      • just as genealogists have always done when documentary evidence was not strong enough to “prove” a relationship, one can indicate “DNA evidence is not available because of XYZ, all of the documentary evidence available supports a conclusion that John Doe is the father of William Doe” or “John Doe named his son William in his will” or dozens of other ways this can be indicated without implying a DNA test supports the conclusion or using words other than the ones we traditionally use to define relationships
      • some researchers think an explicit statement should be made of the relationship type being asserted; some think, in the absence of a stated relationship type, the sources used make an implicit statement
      • some think we have always asserted biological relationships without DNA evidence and should still be able to do so; some think today’s technology means there is a paradigm shift that should be embraced

These discussions are likely to continue for the next few years or longer. In my time in the genealogical world, the same kinds of discussions took place when computers first began being used and again when so many records became available online. The genealogical community made it through those changes which were major transitions in how we work. I suspect we will make it through this "crisis" in time to be poised for the next one that will surely come.

Additional bullets will be discussed in other parts of this series:

BCG, Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Ancestry, 2019)


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All statements made in this blog are the opinion of the post author. This blog is not sponsored by any entity other than Debbie Parker Wayne nor is it supported through free or reduced price access to items discussed unless so indicated in the blog post. Hot links to other sites are provided as a courtesy to the reader and are not an endorsement of the other entities except as clearly stated in the narrative.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "DNA Standards - Part 6," Deb's Delvings, 10 March 2019 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2019, Debbie Parker Wayne, Certified Genealogist®, All Rights Reserved

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