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Top DNA posts of the year

Here we are, in the last days of 2019, and The Legal Genealogist is continuing to take the chance some extra time-off allows, to think back and reflect.

It’s now the last Sunday of the year — the last of this decade — and when you think about just what this decade has meant for the use of DNA evidence in solving our family mysteries… wow. Just wow…

Add on top of that all the events of this tumultuous year right up to the announcement not even three weeks ago of the buyout of the genealogical DNA database GEDmatch by a biotech firm serving the law enforcement community and it’s way beyond wow.

So, here on this last DNA Sunday of 2019, let’s look back at this incredible year, and the top DNA-related posts — at least those that are still relevant here at the end of the year (and so excluding those that have already been overtaken by other events!):

top DNA posts 2019

Without further ado… and starting at number 10 for the year:

The logical fallacy (4 February)
The Legal Genealogist doesn’t usually write about DNA day after day. … Today, there are two reasons to do so, both stemming from the disclosure late last week that Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) had changed its terms of use without notice to allow law enforcement to submit crime scene samples into its database and obtain matching data about all customers those samples match — data that can include names, email addresses, matching segment data, family trees and more about thousands of people out to the distant cousin level.”

That other DNA (26 May)
“Everyone who reads The Legal Genealogist on a regular basis knows what DNA stands for. It’s deoxyribonucleic acid. One of two types of molecules that encode genetic information. But from now on, around here and everywhere else on the internet where this blog has a presence, those letters are going to stand for something else. Do. Not. Argue.”

Equal opportunity DNA criticism (11 August)
“(DNA) tools are wonderful sources of hints and clues. But they’re not more than that.
They’re not proof.”

No magic wands (3 March)
“No matter how much we want tools like this to be the end-all-and-be-all of family history research using DNA, there’s no such thing as a magic wand. They are providing hints or clues only, and not rock-solid-take-it-to-the-bank evidence that we can use without question in our family histories.”

Filling in the blanks (28 July)
“One of the single most important factors in determining the likelihood that somebody we match as a DNA cousin matches us in a particular way is tree completeness. That’s the degree to which we — and our match — have identified all of the ancestral lines from which our shared DNA might have come.”

Commercial researchers gain FTDNA access (17 February)
“… a commercial company offering research services to any police department anywhere is running its samples through the matching system (at FTDNA), greatly expanding the reach of law enforcement into private information of customers who tested solely for genealogical purposes.”

One little change (3 February)
“The furor over the unilateral decision of the genealogical DNA testing company Family Tree DNA to change its terms of service and open its customer database to law enforcement for use in criminal investigations comes down in the final analysis to one word: choice.”

The choice that really isn’t (22 May)
“Dealing with privacy issues when it comes to DNA databases created for genealogical purposes is like trying to nail jello to a tree. Sometimes, just when The Legal Genealogist thinks one thing has been nailed down, something we hadn’t thought of pops up to pose more issues. Sometimes, what’s being said doesn’t match what’s being done. And sometimes what’s being done turns out to be much different than what anyone might have thought. Which means that sometimes it’s just a matter of smoke and mirrors.”

Withdrawing a recommendation (15 May)
“When a company or tools site breaks its own word in its terms of service — its contract with its users — and makes decisions on allowing access without consulting those users, when it takes it on itself to share living test-takers’ data without our consent, it does not respect our privacy rights… and can no longer be trusted or recommended.”

Opening the DNA floodgates (1 February)
“The floodgates have been opened to almost unlimited police use of data collected solely for genealogical purposes, without the informed consent of users, and without any realistic prospect of gaining informed consent, since so many FTDNA test-takers who were early adopters of this technology are now deceased.”

On to 2020… with just one more sidetrack for a top-post list… the top posts of all time here at The Legal Genealogist.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “2019 top posts: DNA,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 29 Dec 2019).

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