10 September 2014

Two Cautionary Tales about Genetic Testing & Families Were Recently Published

On the same day, two articles were published about Genetic Testing and families.

For the former article, there have been many comments posted about it on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Facebook page.  

Obviously these articles raise very complex questions regarding rights to information and so much more.

Whenever a client asks me about doing genetic testing for genealogical purposes I always tell them “if you don’t want to know the truth, don’t do DNA testing!”

Also regarding the first post, the comments on FB include some discussion about why similar articles aren’t written about people making similar discoveries (e.g. dad had another child with someone else) through other means?  I do believe that such articles are being written and even books, though, what DNA brings to the table is the incontrovertible evidence of relationship which we cannot ascertain (unless all the involved parties are still alive and/or they left a detailed and explicit document about what occurred) from the horses mouth exactly what happened.  So, a paper trail may give us a very good level of “certainty” and it’s not proof in the way DNA testing has become.  This, to me, makes DNA testing a “great” (or we can substitute “easy”) lightening rod for articles like these.  

A DNA test is “easy” to blame for the actions of ancestors.  Yet, in many (though clearly not all) cases, all the adults involved were willing participants in the producing of future generations, regardless of surname and circumstances.  The test just provided “proof” of those long-ago events and there is nothing we, as researchers, can do to change history.

Unfortunately, even those not involved in genealogical research or DNA testing, may learn things they didn’t want to know because their extended family has pursued research and DNA testing.  It’s kind of like when your neighbor tells you something about another neighbor which would have never come up in a conversation with that other neighbor – it’s hard to get that information out of your head and it sometimes changes your relationship with both neighbors.  What can you do to prevent it?  Bury your head in the sand?  Not talk to anyone?  I don’t have an answer ....

Again, these do represent cautionary tales about the unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes that genetic testing can lead to.

Do read these articles.  Do share your reactions to them.  Have they changed your perspective on DNA testing for genealogical purposes?

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