15 March 2009

DNA: The flip side

This WashingtonTimes.com article - "DNA tests help genealogists only so far" - focuses on how DNA testing may provide more questions than answers.
"Testing is only filling in a small segment of the big picture," says Troy Duster, a sociology professor at New York University. "That's part of the problem. Some people feel that maybe knowing a little is better than not knowing anything, but it can provide people with a false sense of connection."
Most of us who utilize DNA tests to investigate our families have learned quite a bit. Whether we now know that a certain branch is not biologically related, or that a family with another name and far-off origin is a genetic match - we have learned something valuable that could not have been done with paper.

Duster says testing takes only biology into account and not affiliation with certain groups by way of language, culture or customs. Of course, he isn't talking about Jewish genetic genealogy and how it links hidden Polish children to their Jewish biological families, or how today's Hispanics carry the Kohanim markers, or even how Ashkenazi Jews are genetic matches with Hispanic and Converso families. I guess we look at things a little differently than does Duster.

Duster also refers to the 2007 case of a Maryland accountant who was tested by several genetic genealogy companies and mistakenly reported to be a Genghis Khan descendant.
"Any company can claim that their laboratories can analyze your DNA to provide accurate information about your ancestry," Mr. Duster says. "But if three different companies provide three different answers [as a report on CBS' "60 Minutes" did in 2007], what is a consumer to do? Which company is correct? There is no way of knowing, since we have no 'gold standard' for excellence or professional self-policing."
However, he neglects to say that FamilyTreeDNA.com was the only one that got it right, and of the others, others got it wrong even after repeated testing.

Quoted in the story are FamilyTreeDNA.com's Max Blankfeld, Ancestry.com's Brett Folkman, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. , author Edward Ball, and the American Society of Human Genetics. The majority of the story seems to focus on the testing limitations of racial and ethnic ancestry.

Read the complete story at the link above.

1 comment:

  1. Experiencing a sense of deja vu all over again, Schelly??