GENEALOGY-DNA-L ArchivesArchiver > GENEALOGY-DNA > 2005-12 > 1135627794
From: Jon Spence <>
Subject: RE: [DNA] What DNA testing can and cannot tell you
Date: Mon, 26 Dec 2005 12:09:54 -0800 (PST)
I agree with Ms. Estes,
I for one went into this new science with eyes-wide open and taking in everything possible about it. I have had some revelations, disappointments, and successes. I think you are being somewhat unfair and opinionated - based maybe on your experiences? I emailed you - off line - with the steps that appeared publically on this list which I think pretty well outlines the "cans and cannots."
From what I can tell, the testing companies are dong just about what ever it takes - except the proverbial kiss - and, in some cases, I've seen instances of that too. I believe your comments were a punch below the belt by your casting aspersions at the testing companies. What is it that YOU expect them to do? Let me rephrase that - what did YOU expect them to do for you when you decided to do your first test?
Somehow, the word "hypothesis" keeps jumping in my brain. Unfortunately, too many who DNA test, don't do any research. Hmmm, how many times did Edison work on the light bulb before he had success? I'm also reminded of the movie "Legally Blond," where the professor asked his assistant, "Did she (Reece Witherspoon) just get up one morning and decide to be a lawyer?" Unfortunately, I think something similar occurs with DNA testing by some.
I've been working on my traditional research for about 15 years, and I have had some electrifying moments, but I've had disappointments. I'm just so glad that these entrepreneurs are willing to risk their money, time and energy and whatever, to bring to us new clues to help us to find information; the science is unprecedented.
I try to read as much as I can about genetic genealogy as I can; also keeping my eyes and ears open about other people's success stories. Using Google scholar and education links has been a tremendous help. Information, success stories and encouragement are out there free of negativism and "sour grapes." Maybe YOU have been looking in the wrong places.
But, I find I have to "put forth the effort" to help myself to find information, unknown cousins to test, and information to help me to build on the clues that DNA testing has given me. Focusing on the traditional research and applying the DNA testing clues you learn from it is the the "other half" of family history (DNA-Genealogy) research success.
For goodness sakes, you know this DNA testing has identified 10 unknown cousins that live right here in the United States that I didn't even know were apart of my family. Think of that! To me, it's the best thing that ever happened to my genealogy research!
But, that didn't happen by way of osmosis! It happened because I ran the generation trails until I found living descendants, and by using the Internet Phone Directories, making calls, and asking questions and looking for clues from each of the "new" cousins, not to mention digging into library records. True, not every contact is successful.
Although the Internet has broadened the scope of genealogy research, unfortunately, people try to make it the last word in their research. People have the mistaken idea that if they find it on the Internet it must be right! Clues may be there but it's not "YOUR" genealogy until YOU have researched every name, date and place. Too many people keep the "brick wall" cycle going because they do not research and find the sources to document their family history.
Maybe you haven't had the successes that you want because - who knows - maybe you are looking in all of the wrong place and dealing with information that may not really be "YOUR" information. Maybe YOU are expecting the impossible (for now) from DNA testing. AND by the way, those cousins I mentioned earlier, I am prepared to accept that even though they have been found, we may never be able to connect with traditional evidence with their oldest known ancestor.
But it does give us some hope that maybe one day we will, but for now at least, we know we are on the right trail. I just finished speaking with a gentleman who said that he has been working on the wrong family line for 20 years - but DNA testing has now pointed him in the right direction. That was discovered because he went generation by generation verifying if the information was correct - Oops, one geneation was questionable!
I hear countless stories from people who say that their family history is a "mess," or they don't know too much about it, or they have that "brick wall." I can honestly say for each one of these incidences mentioned, that DNA testing has helped to put individuala on the right tracks. But before they tested there was ground work to be done - a plan - there's that hypothesis thing - as to why they wanted to do the test.
To paraphrase a former President, Ask not what DNA testing can do for you, ask what YOU need to for DNA testing to let it work for you. But, "Let's not kill the messenger."
I think this is a bit skewed. Many many people have indeed make huge
breakthroughs thanks to DNA testing for genealogy that could never have been
made otherwise. Those who haven't need but to wait, or recruit those with
similar surnames. I think to color consumers who don't have matches as
victims is grossly unfair. Because his DNA is likely rare at some marker,
when he does get a match, it will likely be a real match. One of my lines
matches everyone it seems and that is infinitely more frustrating that my
rare ones who simply sit out there and wait.
One other point to keep in mind. As a genealogist for approaching 3 decades
now, I have spent far far more on many completely unfruitful searches using
traditional genealogy methods. I have purchased many books and order reams
of microfilm and taken many trips to courthouses that produced nothing, and
never will. At least these dollars, between $100 and $200 most likely, has
the potential to return an investment in the future, for far less than my
From: Eric Olson [mailto:]
Sent: Monday, December 26, 2005 12:25 PM
Subject: Re: [DNA] What DNA testing can and cannot tell you
Welcome to our world - of frustration at finding no matches. But look at
the larger picture. You are a "victim" of a brilliant plan to generate DNA
linked genealogical and geographical data, funded by a public led to believe
that paying for these tests would lead them to discovering ancestors, but
was really to provide a rich vein of data for scientists interested in
population genetics to mine. And of course those seeking to confirm their
family trees already known. Genealogy is currently America's most popular
hobby, and so a potentially large market for DNA testing already existed,
ripe for harvesting, for this "best thing to happen to genealogy since the
family tree". Was this pure hype? Probably not, because at some day in the
remote future you or your descendants may discover your surnamed ancestors
in the databases. Be content that you have been able to contribute to
science with your dollars and data, and let it go at that. But stay
----- Original Message -----
From: "James A. Honeychuck"
Sent: Monday, December 26, 2005 5:17 AM
Subject: [DNA] What DNA testing can and cannot tell you
> Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays.
> It is dawning on me that my frustration at finding no matches, no
> relatives, and no definite origins through Y-DNA testing is probably due
> to my initial lack of understanding about the purpose of the tests. I
> think I now understand correctly that Y-STR and Y-SNP testing are
> basically to determine deep ancestry and relatedness among living people;
> that is, information about way back when and about very recent times. And
> if I understand Thomas Krahn correctly, autosomal testing is basically for
> whatever you think it might mean, with no claim that it will reveal
> origins of any age.
> So as for determining where your Y-line ancestors were a thousand years
> ago, no form of testing can do that, right?
> Y-DNA J1
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|RE: [DNA] What DNA testing can and cannot tell you by Jon Spence <>|