Monday, 9 June 2014

Belling the cat in genealogy

You likely remember the fable about the mouse that suggested tying a bell around the cat's neck so that when it was on the prowl they would be warned. The only problem was finding a volunteer to tie the bell -- a good idea in theory, troublesome in practise.
That came to mind on Friday when I was listening to Blaine Bettinger's streamed presentation from the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree "DNA and the Genealogical Proof Standard." Blaine posed the question of how much by way of resources, financial and time, were implied by the GPS requirement to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search. In the case of DNA where a client may be looking for an answer in a couple of months, but it's impractical to complete a DNA test in that time, what do you tell a client? Given that the average non-paternity rate is maybe 1 or 2 percent per generation, and maybe you're looking back 5 generations, is the 5 to 10 percent possibility of non-paternity which could be detected by DNA tests enough to preclude you claiming your research meets the GPS?

1 comment:

Paul Jones said...

I think a lot has to do with whether the client is more comfortable with a biological or social understanding of kinship. I've always taken the view that the relationships accepted by family and society trump genetic contributions in terms of my interest. That said, I don't think I'd trace the pedigree of a genetically unrelated "ancestor". Others, I know, feel differently, that it's all about the genes.