Genetic Genealogy: To Do or Not to Do DNA Testing, That’s Been My Question, Seeking to Discern Accuracy & Specific Applicability

LOONNNGGGG story short: For several years now, I’ve been wondering if, and how, DNA testing can answer specific genealogy questions for my family: (1) to identify the paternity of a 1xGreat-grandfather (to determine which, if either of the two family stories/extant legends is correct); (2) to determine whether, or not, the Native American legend for a 4xGreat-grandfather is true (since there is zero info of this family or descendants on any prominent Indian Rolls, and they are recorded as white on the censuses); to determine whether there is any Native American blood at all (a similar legend crops up on another line, too).

While doing independent study via methodology tutorials by Crista Cowan, their Barefoot Genealogist, posted at Youtube in their Desktop Education playlist, a recurrent topic came up in the varied DNA instruction: the factor of random inheritance, dropped DNA strands, (in the silenced, recessive genes). I first noted it in the “AncestryDNA: Why is My Native American Ancestry Not Showing Up?”(in which it’s pointed out that through (recombinant random inheritance in which siblings can receive different ancestral DNA; some siblings receiving zero from a particular ancestral line). Yet this concept was repeated with different examples & different visuals in many of the DNA tutorials—and it nagged at me. That concept of random inheritance wasn’t entirely new, dominant/recessive genes having been touched on in high school. What I couldn’t quite wrap my head around was the idea that full siblings could exhibit different ancestral lines, perhaps a brother showing something no other sibling inherited. If that was so, I wondered, what on earth could DNA testing do to conclusively answer my own genealogical questions?

After attending a genetic results class last year (summer 2016( at an annual Utah conference, in which the presenter, a geneticist & world-wide lecturer, announced that his team had determined that a man living in the 1800s could not have been the biological father of a daughter who’d been told her paternity by her dying mother’s own deathbed testimony.

Still trying to wrap my head around the concept that siblings could exhibit different DNA due to random inheritance and dropped DNA strands, I wondered, how in the world, could any geneticist say with any accuracy that it is proven conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that someone could not be an ancestor. So I immediately emailed the geneticist sharing that thought and asking questions about the applicability of DNA testing to my specific genealogical questions in light of my parents being cousins on three ancestral lines. He sent an email promising to get back to me, but he failed to do so, including ignoring my followup emails. It left me wondering if I’d hit a nerve, if in fact he could not definitively defend his results as entirely conclusive, (ironically, after my several emails, he was interviewed online in Autumn 2016,and brought up the function of random DNA, but said “We’re not going to discuss it here”, so is he skirting the issue, I wondered) and therefore if I could not trust DNA testing to answer my own genealogical questions.

In the interim, I found a tutorial from the Feb 2017 annual Rootstech presentations, which answered many of my questions, at least enough of them, to make me begin again to reconsider doing DNA testing for genealogical purposes. I’ll share that link here to aid you in deciding whether it would be beneficial to your family: “My Ancestors are in My DNA” by Angie Bush (duration 41:40). Be aware, however, that the annual Rootstech videos are available for a limited time. But this one is so valuable, I really hope they keep it accessible permanently.

The other question I have about DNA testing, is whether it’s entirely trustworthy to capture and convey an accurate picture of anyone’s (full?) ancestral DNA. Or, with random inheritance, is it like Carbon-14 radiometric dating, results depending on which sample is tested (Did they get the right/oldest chunk of decayed matter in the dirt?), and for which there are documented examples individual testing companies presenting differing dates, and those dates contradict and far exceed the Biblical record. (REF: “Is Carbon Dating Reliable?”; “Errors are Feared in Carbon Dating”, “Does Carbon-14 Dating Disprove the Bible?”, and “Myths Regarding Radiocarbon Dating”

For DNA application, in other words, did they test the right descendant who randomly inherited the sought-after ancestral genes in the recombinant bits that are passed down? OR, is DNA testing, & it’s interpretation, not yet refined enough to be entirely accurate? Still looking for answers on that one.

The biggest concern I have, is not being led on a genealogical wild goose chase. With all the existing genealogical mysteries due to missing, interrupted, and even erroneous paper trails, should I really muddy the water further with DNA testing?

Hopefully, however, it seems a legitimate no-brainer that doing DNA testing & thereby preserving family DNA, will be better than not doing it at all. And if there are failures and inadequacies in current testing and analysis now, will it be straightened out later, and will the time come when it will be reevaluated and accurately categorized for future descendants? Seems, in part, it comes down to this, to get an accurate picture: you can’t test just one, you must test several family members, especially the oldest generations.

Hope all this pondering is helpful in aiding your decision on whether or not to do genetic DNA testing to aid in accurate determination of your family ancestry.


One thought on “Genetic Genealogy: To Do or Not to Do DNA Testing, That’s Been My Question, Seeking to Discern Accuracy & Specific Applicability

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  1. Rose,

    I SO hope you decide to have your DNA tested. I am reading your research and growing more convinced we are related by the minute. I’ve been working on breaking down my Herndon brick wall for so many years, and for the first time, I feel there is hope. I wonder if you would be so kind as to drop me an email so we can discuss?



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