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2017 DNA retrospective

Here we are, in the last days of 2017, so it’s time to stop for a moment, and reflect as part of a year-end review.

As has been true in other recent years, this has 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.


It’s so much a part of mainstream genealogical methodology that most folks today would wonder what’s wrong with us if we haven’t done DNA testing as broadly and as widely as possible.

But it’s still a developing field, and things surely are in a state of flux, as shown by this year’s top posts.

So… here on this DNA Sunday — Christmas Eve 2017 — we pause to review the top DNA stories for the year.

DNA testing for adoptees: 2017 (8 January): “There isn’t a week that goes by that the question doesn’t come in to The Legal Genealogist. “I am adopted,” the question begins. Or, perhaps, “I don’t know who one of my parents is.” And, the question continues, “can DNA testing really help?” The answer, of course, is yes.”

The 23andMe class action (24 September): “Yes, it really is for real. No, it’s not a scam. Yes, you will need to act to get the maximum benefit from it. “It,” in this case, is the settlement of a class action lawsuit against 23andMe that was handled by way of arbitration through the American Arbitration Association.”

Updated look at GedMatch (26 March): “Even now, five years after The Legal Genealogist was launched and began discussing using DNA for genealogical research, it still is occasionally surprising to find that not everyone is ready, willing and able to test with every DNA company on the planet, or at least in the United States. Just because doing a full round of tests with Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, AncestryDNA, My Heritage DNA, LivingDNA, National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 project and others will set you back several hundred dollars is no reason not to let loose your inner DNA geek, is it?”

DNA doesn’t lie! (1 October): “It’s one of the most-commonly-repeated statements in genetic genealogy: “DNA doesn’t lie.” It’s usually coupled with: “Families do.” And The Legal Genealogist isn’t going to take on either of those. But — as with almost everything in genealogy — there’s more to the story.”

The truth will out (6 August): “There is one unavoidable essential truth of DNA testing: the truth will out. Time and again, we are reminded by the genetic genealogy community that: ‘DNA test results, like traditional genealogical records, can reveal unexpected information about the tester and his or her immediate family, ancestors, and/or descendants. For example, both DNA test results and traditional genealogical records can reveal misattributed parentage, adoption, health information, previously unknown family members, and errors in well-researched family trees, among other unexpected outcomes.’”

With all due respect (21 May): “In legal circles, the phrase “with all due respect” is used to preface a statement or set of statements that can roughly be summarized in two words: “I disagree.” That’s pretty much the reaction of The Legal Genealogist to a piece written by another New Jersey lawyer about the legal issues and risks inherent in DNA testing in general and testing with AncestryDNA in particular. It’s not that everything said in the article was wrong; to the contrary, much of it is absolutely right. It’s more that perfectly ordinary facts are presented in alarmist terms, as if they were new or surprising or unusual when they’re none of those things.”

Update in AncestryDNA research consent (21 March): “One of the most important aspects of DNA testing — and one that is given short shrift by way too many people — is the act of saying yes or no to the terms of service and research agreements asked of us. Every single company that we might test with has terms of service, or terms of use, that govern our use of the service — and the service’s use of our DNA information. And we can’t test with those companies without agreeing to those terms.”

The floodgates open! (19 February): “It’s taken a very long time, but the floodgates are now open for transfers into the autosomal DNA database at Family Tree DNA. And for those who have tested at other companies but want the benefits of having good analytical tools while being in as many databases as possible to find as many matches as possible, this is very very good news.”

On to 2018… with end-of-year side-trips still to come through some other top posts…

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