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Monday, January 12, 2015

Genetic Genealogy Standards Published

On the heels of the APG Professional Management Conference (which was great, by the way, even from my house!) The Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee released the document of standards they have worked on for the last year.  Many people are blogging about it right now (such as The Legal Genealogist and The Genetic Genealogist) so make sure you read all the commentary about it from these sources too.

This process started in 2013 and then took off in earnest in the spring of 2014.  Which, it should have.  The genetic genealogy community strives for excellence and consistency with paper genealogy researchers, but to be honest some people are still finding their footing.  It’s not like there was a BCG manual on genetic genealogy out there to use as a guide for those interested.  There was some controversy in fact among some genealogists over what standards there should be, laws in different states and how genealogists should proceed. As an example see the NGS Quarterly vol. 101 no. 4 December 2013 editorial “DNA Standards” and the response here.

However, shoving a round peg into a square hole isn’t always an answer.  This niche of study is too different and still evolving.  This is why I was so happy to wake up Sunday morning to these standards.  As a unique field among genealogists, which is advancing more quickly than lecturers can teach about it, we have a responsibility to follow ethical genealogical practices but also those of scientists. 

The committee consisted of CeCe Moore, Blaine Bettinger, David Bachinsky, Traci Barela, Katherine Borges, Angie Bush, Melinde Lutz Byrne, Shannon S Christmas, George T. Cicila, Michael Hait, Tim Janzen, James M Owston, Ana Oquendo Pab√≥n, Ugo Perego, Steven C. Perkin, Ann Turner, Debbie Parker Wayne and Jennifer Zinck.  They have created a wonderful starting place for this niche and yes, I say starting place, because just as science is constantly developing I am sure these standards will too. Everything evolves over time, it has to or it will become obsolete. 

Particularly important was this paragraph in the introduction of the standards:
These Standards are intentionally directed to genealogists, not to genetic genealogy testing companies. As used in the Standards, the term “genealogist” includes anyone who takes a genetic genealogy test, as well as anyone who advises a client, family member, or other individual regarding genetic genealogy testing. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of those taking a genetic genealogy test (“tester”) to understand and consider these standards before ordering or agreeing to take any genetic genealogy test.
I can’t stress how much I agree with this statement.  Nearly every day I come across someone who has tested and they really are not sure what the results say or how they find out that information.  I am not suggesting you need a genetics degree to do this but I do think that having a basic understand of procedures, companies and what your goal is would be great.  Sure, in an ideal world you would work with another genealogist who has this expertise (just like I really should go and find a researcher to help me with my Irish ancestry) but we all know that is not likely to happen for most people. 

On the committee website there are pages set up for more detailed standards concerning mtDNA, yDNA and citations.  I didn’t see any dates listed for when these will be available, but as soon as I find that out I will post about it.

Needless to say I am over the moon that these are out there.  A copy is printed and on my cork board next to all my other reminders and quick reference sheets.  I want it handy when I have visitors who ask what’s new in the world of genetic genealogy. 


  1. I'm so glad to hear that there are standards being developed. I've heard about DNA testing over the years, but only recently learnt a bit about it. Thank you for sharing this information.