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2015 DNA retrospective

Here we are, in the last days of 2015, so it’s time to stop for a moment, and reflect as part of a year-end review.

top10.dna.2015It’s been a pretty amazing year for DNA testing and its use in genealogy.

Not long ago, people would shake their heads in bewilderment at the very thought of trying to use DNA testing to help link people together who should be linked, or unlink them when they really shouldn’t be.

Today?

It’s so much a part of mainstream genealogical methodology that the question now is why you wouldn’t do DNA testing if it’s at all possible.1

So… what were the top DNA stories for the year?

Let’s do the Top 10 countdown:

At Number 10 for 2015:

No, no NA (23 August): “There are, at this moment, 201 family trees on Ancestry.com that list the man who became The Legal Genealogist‘s third great grandfather as Jacob Elijah Gentry. Of those, 167 are public trees. And 34 private trees. And every last one of them is wrong.”

At Number 9:

The winds of change (8 November): “There’s good news and bad news in the genetic genealogy world this week. The good news is, things are changing. The bad news is, thing are changing.”

At Number 8:

Now… and not now (6 December): “It was big news last month when 23andMe got approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to resume issuing health-related reports as part of its testing. … (A)ll of us who’ve tested there for any reason — and that includes The Legal Genealogist — got the big purple notice on our results pages telling us that, starting November 11th, things were going to be changing.”

At Number 7:

Of babies and bathwater (17 May): “It was probably inevitable the moment the very first headline appeared online, inaccurately accusing Ancestry of handing over DNA data without a court order. … that Ancestry would decide to cut its losses, limit its future exposure to that kind of false publicity, and shut down one of the most valuable genetic genealogical databases that’s ever been created.”

At Number 6:

DNA: good news, bad news (11 January): “DNA is so often a matter of bad news mixed in with the good, isn’t it? And this past week’s news out of Salt Lake City has been no exception.”

At Number 5:

Making the best of what’s not so good (22 February): “It’s a question that just won’t go away. No matter how many times The Legal Genealogist warns — and most others interested in genetic genealogy agree — that the ethnicity estimates provided by DNA testing companies are not all that accurate, people still want to know: What’s the best testing company to find out where in Africa my people came from? What’s the best testing company if I think I have Native American or American Indian ancestry and I want to know what tribe? What’s the best testing company if I’m English, or German, or Russian, or Italian, or…?”

At Number 4:

The changes at 23andMe (25 October): “Let’s get this out of the way up front: The Legal Genealogist has never been much of a fan of 23andMe for genetic genealogy testing. I know there are genealogists who swear by it, and who’ve had all of their family members tested there. I know that people have made important breakthroughs using its tools. I know that it probably has the best ethnicity estimates currently available. But it’s been crystal clear, from the very start, that the focus of 23andMe was never on genetic genealogy, but rather on health information.”

At Number 3:

Facts matter! (3 May): “In genealogy, we get this point: facts matter. In genealogy, the point shouldn’t have to be repeated: facts matter. And in genetic genealogy, the point really shouldn’t have to be repeated: facts matter. Particularly when the ‘fact’ being bandied about is one that might cause some of our cousins to stop dead in their tracks and perhaps even refuse to consider being DNA-tested for genetic genealogy.”

At Number 2:

Opting out (26 July): “The announcement came in just about a week ago, that AncestryDNA had finally begun to do what The Legal Genealogist and many others have long expected it would do: monetize its huge and fast-growing DNA database.”

And the Number One DNA post for 2015:

2015: Most bang for the DNA buck (2 February): “In 2012, The Legal Genealogist led off a Sunday DNA blog by asking ‘how do you get the most bang for the DNA buck?’ That was followed up in 2013 with an update after prices tumbled for autosomal DNA tests, and in 2014 with an update after technological changes at 23andMe blew some of the recommendations out of the water. And — with price changes, feature changes, the advent of international sales, and changes in the way data may be treated at some companies — it’s time now for another update.”2

On to 2016… with end-of-year sidetrips still to come thru some other top posts…


SOURCES

  1. See Judy G. Russell, “DNA: coming on strong,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 20 Sep 2015 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 27 Dec 2015).
  2. And yes… before you ask… there will be a 2016 version of most-bang-for-the-DNA-buck — but not until the dust settles with the changes at 23andMe.
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