Sunday, April 28, 2019

Kickin' it with Advanced Genetic Genealogy and Cage the Elephant

It took a while, but Friday evening, this party animal finished reading, from cover to cover, the March publication edited by Debbie Parker Wayne, Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies. I freaked out a bit when I saw that this book would be available and ordered it ASAP. Having read Genetic Genealogy in Practice and The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy along with the chapter from Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards, I still wanted to delve further in DNA methodology. I learn by dissecting case studies to see if those methods and theories can be applied to my own research. It usually doesn't. This book proved otherwise.

DNA is something where when I hear the words ribosome or nucleus I immediately start thinking about what is for dinner instead. I loathed biology in high school and I barely remember it from community college. To be honest, if it was not for the book The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA and trips to the Smithsonian Natural History museum, I would be totally in the dark. I have had my siblings, my mother and my now deceased grandmothers DNA done. Dealing with all that data from those tests has not really been done. Instead, I have hoarded the data and put it in a folder to deal with some day when I have the time, focus and ability to deal with the wildcard results. Nearly five years of data hoarding has led to me having to sort through, organize, hypothesize and finally deal with this DNA.

It has been an interesting process. Due to endogamy (or as I like to say, "Endoga-Me, how about Endoga-You?") in Polynesian cultures, it has been easy for me to sort those who would be on my father's side (Hawaiian, Japanese) from my father's mother's side. My grandma Reba had a few lines that were dead-ends due to illegitimacy. Illegitimacy in Tennessee. Simple, right? Mitochondrial DNA was a bust and most of the autosomal DNA matches can be confirmed as links to established lines.

Debbie's book came out at the perfect time. I had decided to deal with that data and I needed some advanced methods to apply it. As mentioned before, I read this book from cover to cover. I usually do not do this with books this large and cherry pick, but I felt like it was essential for me to understand the entire process from the different authors.

I will admit, I had favorite chapters that haunted me for days. Haunted in a good way where each time I thought about it, I had a different idea of how to approach a DNA related genealogical issue. The chapter by Jim Bartlett on triangulating was great. The chapter by Kathryn Johnston on X-DNA techniques implanted a few ideas on how to possibly back-door some pedigree verification. Debbie's case study enabled me to see, step-by-step, how her methods could work for a similar problem. But my absolute favorite chapter was by Patti Hobbs on "Correlating Documentary and DNA Evidence to Identify and Unknown Ancestor." Everything about this chapter ticked every box in my book and the tables and figures provided visual aides that I think will be used a lot in the future by all researchers.

This book was able to fire up a part of my analytical brain that had been dormant for a while. If you feel like you have been in a rut and you want a challenge, read and study this book. I found that in order to make sure that I was understanding the concepts, I would even go back and retake the tests in Genetic Genealogy in Practice because I didn't want to forget any of this.

I don't usually like Cage the Elephant, but their latest album is good, with a Beck collaboration in there. Some of the themes in the songs could apply to DNA, but mainly, what DNA exposes regarding us and our identities.

Debbie Parker Wayne, editor, Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies (Cushing, Texas: Wayne Research, 2019).

Cage the Elephant, Social Cues

Mark Schultz, The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA (New York: Hill and Wang, 2009).