Tuesday, 13 January 2015

US Committee Releases Final Draft Genetic Genealogy Standards

The final draft of Genetic Genealogy Standards produced by a grass-roots committee of US genetic genealogists has been published. It is intended to "provide ethical and usage standards for the genealogical community to follow when purchasing, recommending, sharing, or writing about the results of DNA testing for ancestry."
Those who participated as committee members are among the most recognized and respected names in genetic genealogy. However, the committee is unaffiliated so the draft standards have no official standing with any recognized organization.
Katherine Borges is Director of the International Society for Genetic Genealogy but whether that Society has a mandate to adopt such standards, as opposed to publicizing them, is unclear.
Three genealogists certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists are committee members: Melinde Lutz Byrne, Michael Hait, and Debbie Parker Wayne. Hait is a BCG Trustee so would be a natural to bring the standards to that organization for consideration and possible adoption.  Paragraph 20 of the draft standard, DNA as Part of Genealogical Proof, is evidently written to facilitate BCG adoption. That means it perpetuates the fiction that a methodology standard provides a proof.


Debbie Kennett said...

The initiative was announced in the ISOGG Facebook group and the panel was not restricted to people in the US, though it seems that it was only US ISOGG members who participated. I would have contributed but it all came at the wrong time for me when I was busy on other projects.

I share your concerns about the idea of "genealogical proof". I don't think the word proof has any place in genealogy. Proof is elusive at the best of times and especially so in a historical context.

James Tanner has a series of interesting blog posts about how the way the words "proof" and "evidence" have been misappropriated by genealogists. I think he makes some very useful points:


TheGeneticGenealogist said...


I'm saddened by this coverage of the publication of the Genetic Genealogy Standards. There are 21 standards in the document, each of which implicates numerous ethical issues arising daily in DNA testing, and yet the limited - and decidedly negative - coverage here focuses on just one standard. It seems like a missed opportunity to educate your readers and help them navigate the DNA waters, simply because the document contains a single reference to the GPS.

At the current time there is no plan for the Standards committee to request that the BCG - or any other organization - adopt or endorse the Standards. Indeed, this has never even been discussed by the committee, much less planned.

There is also no plan to affiliate the Standards or the committee with any other organization, although that isn't an impossibility at some point in the future. Additionally, just as organizations like BCG, APG, BIFHSGO, and ISOGG started out as nothing more than ad hoc committees lacking an "official standing with any recognized organization," the Standards committee has the potential to develop into a respected and influential organization to benefit the field of genetic genealogy, if we determine that is the best way to go forward.

I note that I comment here as an individual rather than a representative of the Standards Committee.

Blaine Bettinger

JDR said...

Thank you for your comment Blaine. I recognize that you've personally invested much effort into this final draft standard. If I didn't consider the work to be of value, and as regards ethical issues widely acceptable, I wouldn't have blogged it.