We who are fully immersed in the mikvah that is genetic genealogy like to say that DNA is the hottest topic in genealogy today. I have certainly said so. After RootsTech, I am sure it is not.
Furthermore, though it certainly should be, I think I understand why it isn't and what in fact is. And how those two things are connected.
Those willing to discuss DNA testing thought it pointless - something that never really produces anything useful. I would cite results and revelations from my own experience and from those of others and to some passers-by I must have seemed like I was selling DNA tests rather than a book about DNA analysis.
Here I had bought our own hype and was expecting the general genealogy public to be - if not quite as enthusiastic as we were - at least intrigued by the potential and willing to look at what genetics might do for them. After all, these folks had defined themselves as more than beginners just by showing up.
Many of these folks were in the sixty-plus cohort and the idea that the results would come when the tests and the analytical tools improve and the database expands did not impress them, especially if they are on a fixed retirement-income.
What did interest them? The other big thing that was all around us. The story-telling. The products that would help them translate their genealogy work into a medium that would appeal to the younger generation. Not the next generation of genealogists, but their personal next generations who were not likely to continue the research, but who might want to see what Grampa has been working at all these years. The products that would suggest how their work might be presented and help them get it done.
So this is really two sides of the same coin. People see DNA as something really far into the future and would rather concentrate on bringing their own work into that future rather than just laying the groundwork for what some research heir might or might not be interested in doing. As an analyst, I am not sure what I can do besides bringing my own experience and learned lessons to encourage and inspire, but it seems to me that the testing companies should be targeting this market before it passes on. And those of us who recognize the importance of getting the older generation into the database, all the moreso. It's our communal heritage.
Story-telling and genetic testing can both be the hottest topics in our conversation.
Perhaps many of them have in fact tried using DNA as a tool and found it futile since everyone is related to everyone. I have more people listed as my 2d-3d cousins who have no connection to me---certainly not at that level. And I know that given the limited records and resources, if they are, as is more likely, 5th-6th cousins, I will likely never be able to trace the connection. For some of us, using DNA has proven both expensive and not very useful at all. I have given up on it, though I am still on GEDmatch, FTDNA, and 23andme. I just don't bother with it anymore.ReplyDelete
Maybe some, but most of these were saying that no, they hadn't. Maybe their frustration was second hand.Delete
I'm curious if the impression/attitude is different at the IAJGS conference?ReplyDelete
I understand Amy's frustration but I keep plugging away at it anyway. I often find Pickholtz names as distant DNA relatives.
Similar, Bonnie, but I don't think it's the same at all. Nor is it the same for Israelis, who are also notoriously behind the curve.Delete
Thank you for your wonderful presentation last week at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Colorado. Everyone fully enjoyed your stories that illustrated how genetic genealogy research can be undertaken, with success, by all of us.ReplyDelete
Audiences I talk to are very interested in how DNA testing can add to their arsenal of genealogy research tools. The focus of my presentations is on teaching people what they can expect and how to maximize their results - most non-Jewish people are interested in connecting with unknown relatives in the hope of discovering someone who has a piece of evidence that they don't have. Many Jews know lots of people who they suspect are related but can't figure out how. And then I run into the geeks who just like to fiddle with new technology.
But you're right - people are all interested in the stories - listening to them and figuring out how to tell theirs.
I agree that it's not a this-or-that choice, and that both can -- and should -- be "hot topics". DNA testing will provide information about your lineage, but nothing about the history of your family. The story telling will help preserve history for the future, just as it has done for thousands of years, but whether it involves your real family or not might be in doubt.ReplyDelete
I love DNA and finding out new things that I never knew. But the only way to continue finding out more, is if more people test. I am having a hard time trying to convince some members of my family to test. :(ReplyDelete
I've been fortunate that several much older relatives have agreed to do tests (which I've paid for). One day I will reap the rewards, and I have time to be patient. I only wish it had been a 'thing' before my father died and took the last male DNA on one of my lines with him.ReplyDelete