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Not an outlier any more

In case you’ve been living on the dark side of the moon in recent years, DNA isn’t the new kid on the block any more.

dna.NYIt’s not an outlier in the genealogical community.

It’s part and parcel of what every genealogist should be doing, whenever it can provide relevant evidence in resolving a genealogical question.

And you don’t have to take The Legal Genealogist‘s word for it at all.

Over the past few days, we have had powerful evidence of how much genetic genealogy is at the forefront of our community.

As one example, in the popularity voting by genealogists around the world at John D. Reid’s blog Anglo-Celtic Connections in his annual review of what he calls genealogy rockstars, the gold winner in three major categories (International, USA and Genetic Genealogy) was genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, author of the Your Genetic Genealogist blog and a DNA consultant to the PBS genealogy program Finding Your Roots, featuring Henry Louis Gates. And, I suspect, it’s my own interest in genetic genealogy that put me in the silver position in the International and USA categories and the bronze in Genetic Genealogy.

But that’s hardly the only evidence we have.

Friday afternoon, at the New York State Family History Conference in Syracuse, co-sponsored by the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society and the Central New York Genealogical Society, Thomas W. Jones challenged attendees to answer the question, “Will Your Family History Have Lasting Value?”

Tom is uniquely qualified to ask that question: he is co-editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, a fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, a former president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and the list of credentials just goes on and on. He is a genuine heavyweight as a genealogical scholar.

And what he said to that standing-room-only crowd of genealogists is a powerful testament to what DNA has become as part of good genealogical practice.

Because he began by outlining the first steps every genealogist should take to ensure that what we do in our research is the very best we can do. We must, he said, gather the oral history of our families from the living people whose voices can be heard today but will be silenced by time. We must gather our family artifacts: the photos, the letters, the diaries, the items that tell so much of our family stories. And we must, he said, as one of these very first steps gather our family DNA by testing our family members as broadly and as deeply as our pocketbooks will bear.

He urged the crowd to test the YDNA of the men of the family, to capture the evidence of their fathers’ fathers’ father’s line. To test the mitochondrial DNA of the men and women of the family, for their mothers’ mothers’ mother’s line. And to test as many of the oldest members of the family as we can for autosomal DNA evidence of all of our ancestral lines.

Not as an afterthought.

Not as an outlier.

But as part and parcel of all of our genealogical research.

So that, in the end, our work will have lasting value.

The conference went on to cement that notion in the minds of the attendees by presenting a full-day of genealogical education yesterday: Blaine Bettinger, author of The Genetic Genealogist blog, and I alternated in presenting an overview of DNA (Blaine), the law and ethics of testing (me), YDNA and mtDNA testing (Blaine), autosomal DNA (Blaine) and a case study in using all DNA types to reconstruct a family in a county where the courthouse burned — twice (me).

So if you’ve been sitting on the fence, and thinking about whether DNA testing is right for you, the answer by now really is a no-brainer.

Test. Test as broadly and deeply in your family as you can afford to test. Because we do want our research to have lasting value. Because DNA isn’t an outlier any more.

Come on in.

The DNA testing water is just fine.

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