Now by saying that, some will immediately become defensive and be compelled to relate how their personal DNA test changed their entire life and challenged their live view, but even if I were to take several DNA tests, I would not be expecting to obtain any particularly useful information absent some specifically designed and documented problem that was being addressed.
I can't keep from making analogies to other areas of my experience. Most people in the United States either own a car or use public transportation of some kind. However I am sure that very, very few people who are traveling around on the freeways today could explain the inner workings of an internal combustion engine. This lack of understanding about the internal workings of their cars' engines does not stop them at all from driving around. I am also aware that many people do not understand even simple concepts such as "miles per gallon of gas" or whatever. This does not stop them from using the machines for productive purposes. The same things could be said about computers.
In fact the time when computers were being introduced is a great analogy to the present state of DNA. When I first began selling computers back in 1982, we spent a lot of time explaining to people "how they worked." We were all caught up in bits and bytes and RAM and other technical stuff. Granted, today, you might still need to be generally aware of some of the specifications of your computer, but how many of us really care what processor it has?
The idea here is that DNA is in the "explain everything in technical terms stage." But what most people want to know is what they are going to get for their money. For example, let's suppose that I find out that I have certain percentage of Scandinavian genetic material, how does that help me read old Norwegian parish registers? Oh, but you say, I am missing the point. No I am not missing the point. If I have documented ancestral relationships to England, I do not need a DNA test to tell me my ancestors came from England. But as I have mentioned in previous posts, there are certain problems that are apparently possible to solve with DNA research assuming I can get the right relatives to agree to be involved in the test process.
For some time now, I have been aware of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki. Rather than listing a lot of references, I will refer you to the ISOGG Wiki. There are plenty of links to articles galore about genealogy and genetics. But even here, there is a compulsion to explain in beginning terms, the inner genetic workings of DNA testing. Here is a list of some of general questions DNA testing is supposed to address taken from a post on the Wheaton Surname Resources entitled, "Beginners Guide to Genetic Genealogy."
Why would someone want to use DNA for genealogy? There are many reasons but here are a few of the most common:Some of these are laudable goals, but some of them are only possible given my initial assessment of extensive research and the cooperation of the right relatives.
- To learn more about one's ancestry
- To prove that one's family tree reflects one's actual ancestry
- To prove or disprove the relationship between two people
- To prove or disprove a theory of where people came from
- To break down a brick wall in one's genealogy research
- To find relatives for those that were adopted, gave up a child for adoption or otherwise do not know their ancestry
- To learn from which ancestor(s) certain traits were inherited
I guess my wrap up question is how consistent would DNA testing be across different companies? I have been hearing reports of people that have taken several tests and gotten disparate results.