12 July 2015

Book review: NextGen Genealogy

Many genealogists weaned on documentary records and information passed though the family have difficulty in interpreting DNA test results. For them NextGen Genealogy targeted as an introduction to genetic genealogy will be welcome.

For US-based author David R Dowell, a librarian by profession, this is his second genealogy book. The first, Crash Course in Genealogy, was on "basic knowledge of traditional genealogical principles."

The book has eight chapters plus end material comprising further reading, a four page glossary and eight page index. An introductory chapter "What is DNA? Family information inside out cells" explains the basics and common terminology.The meat is in the four chapters which focus on Y, mitochondrial, autosomal and X DNA. These are followed by chapters on extreme genealogy (deep ancestry), ethics, and a look ahead.

The explanations are clear, the presentation is well illustrated with cases. especially for the author's Dowell surname and extended family. The chapter on autosomal testing is especially good with explanations of the use of results from all three major testing companies in the US.

Although the publication date is 2015 the field is moving so fast some of the material is already out of date. None of the resources of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation are presently available having been taken off line by Ancestry.com after they purchased the assets. The AncestryDNA autosomal test is now offered outside the US in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK. There is no mention of the results of the People of the British Isles project, something Christine Kenneally managed to include in her 2014 book The Invisible History of the Human Race.

The author has acknowledged the issue of delay in a blog post explaining that the publisher chosen, Libraries Unlimited, meant a substantial delay was built into the publishing process. It also meant a higher price for the 173 page paperback book, Amazon.ca lists it at $50.30 Cdn with a Kindle edition at $40.24 Cdn.

There are a few errors but nothing I noticed was major. The claim is made that when mutations occur G always interchanges with A and T always interchanges with C and is at variance with the data on Y SNPs on the ISOGG website. One might also question the statement, attributed to Angie Bush that "It (DNA) must be used as another 'record type' and as part of the genealogical proof standard (GPS)." There is no obligation to look at DNA evidence in the context of the GPS, most probably don't while still enjoying benefits from genetic genealogy.

There are references to or quotes from most of the well known social media genetic genealogists: Blaine Bettinger, Angie Bush, Roberta Estes, Maurice Gleeson; Debbie Kennett, Cece Moore, Judy Russell which sometimes point out where opinions differ. On the topic of references, there are plenty to guide those who want to go beyond the book's introduction level.

Overall I can recommend NextGen Genealogy for meeting its introductory objective while written in a friendly non-academic style. Owing to the price you may want to do what I did - borrow it through your local public library.

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