Monday, December 12, 2016

Kickin' it with Genetic Genealogy in Practice and Alessandro Cortini

DNA is a wonderful thing.
DNA is not a magic bullet, but when corroborated with documentation of high quality, it can nurture a hypothesis. When DNA is not available, genealogists have had to rely on other forms of evidence, but down to the bone of it, DNA is a form of evidence and it should be consulted if you are fortunate enough to have it and understand it.

This year, I have had leads and a clunker with my own DNA and the testing of various family members.
  • I was able to verify the American Indian ethnicity of my great-great (whatever) grandmother with DNA, but had previously been able to assert that identity and ethnicity by applying the Genealogical Proof Standard, so the DNA evidence made the case stronger. Although it cannot answer directly "which tribe" she is from or "who her parents are," but when correlated with evidence by differing reliable informants, it meets the GPS.
  • I was able to find the lost sibling of a line, just sitting on AncestryDNA, waiting to be found.
  • I was able to verify, with DNA, a connection to a legitimate line on my father's side, that was previously proven with various reliable sources and application of the GPS.
  • I was able to get my sister interested in genealogy with DNA.
  • The downside was when I offered to a Ancestry tree match to purchase them a DNA test to see if we actually match in effort to triangulate, they declined after seeing me because they did not have my "kind" in their tree.
Like all evidence, DNA evidence can answer a genealogical question directly or may need other evidence (or in instances of autosomal DNA, may need other testers) to rule out or corroborate. DNA is evidence and ignoring it because it does not give you the 100% answer you seek is like ignoring a probate record because the child you are looking for is not listed as an heir --- all evidence, including DNA evidence --- should be evaluated when pursuing the answer to the genealogical question. What I enjoy about DNA is that it makes sure that we genealogists are not complacent. It ensures that we keep learning about DNA, about the ancestor, about the posed genealogical question, and pushes us to be deeper analytical thinkers to analyze that wondrous data.

In 2014, I attended the Institute for Genetic Genealogy when it was in Washington, D.C. It was an exciting and intimidating line-up of lectures. DNA education appeals to my abstract thinking, but until I had a solid understanding of DNA, I could not move forward. I was fortunate enough to copy edit Debbie Parker Wayne's excellent DNA column when I was managing editor of NGS Magazine and was able to come to understand how nuanced and complicated genetic genealogy was. This year when the National Genealogical Society published Genetic Genealogy in Practice, I was elated that I could take what I thought I understood and put it into practice. I was able to learn more about DNA and have it sink in because Blaine Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne wrote an excellent work that helped me understand DNA and the application of it effectively and correctly. It takes time and patience, but working on this workbook is worth it.

Couple that with Alessandro Cortini's Forse 1 and you have some nice background drone to help you focus. I enjoy Cortini's work because I imagine, if you could take off your space helmet in space (and not have your head explode), that this music is what the universe would sound like in outer space.

Genetic Genealogy in Practice (print version) at

Alessandro Cortini Forse 1.

P.S. Sorry for the delay in posting. When I am working on large writing projects, I stop reading other people's work because I do not want their voice to seep into my narrative. Fortunately, the project is done for now and the manuscript will be mailed to reviewers this week. More on my book in 2017.