Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Is the Story of and DNA Untold?
This recent article from reviews some of the issues raised by the recent interest in genealogical DNA testing. It also reviews some of the history of  The article is quite long for a news story and contains some interesting information sprinkled with a few questionable and unsupported "facts." First of all, the issues raised by this article are far from new. I expect that very few genealogists are aware of the dark part genealogy has played in our collective history. Let's start with this:
Here is a quote from the beginning of this article.
The United States has an imperfect history. Some of our darker chapters include slavery, the decimation of Native American populations, and atrocities committed during our various wars. A quick survey will reveal that most Americans have learned about or at least heard of these events. However, ask the average person about the “ eugenics movement” and you are likely to get blank stares. We at Genetics Generation believe it is time to raise awareness of this tragic time in our country’s history.
As a side note, the publishers of this post seem to have no idea how to moderate the comments left on their post. But that is another issue I deal with almost every day.

One thing not emphasized in the short article about eugenics was that originally before genetic testing became available, this movement was based on genealogy. What is not noted in either article is the fact that some genealogists, mostly those with a legal background, have been the ones to raise the alarm. For example, here are links to posts by blogger Judy Russell entitled, "The price of sharing" and "The ethics of DNA testing."

Here is a short list of articles that relate to this topic. Can you tell which of these articles are based on substantiated facts and which include scare tactics and misrepresentation?
If you want an in-depth look at the history of DNA testing and the ethical and social issues involved that go way beyond the issue of privacy, here is a short list of books you might want to read.

Mayflower, James. Genealogy: DNA and the Family Tree, 2015.
Mukherjee, Siddhartha. The Gene: An Intimate History, 2017.
Ollhoff, Jim. DNA: Window to the Past. Edina, Minn.: ABDO Pub. Co., 2011.
Wailoo, Keith, Alondra Nelson, and Catherine Lee. Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2012.

If you need a good resource for information about genealogical DNA testing, I suggest the websites maintained by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy or

For the past few years, I have been reading and studying about the subject of DNA testing and genealogy and will continue to read and study more. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for highlighting these issues. If you're interested in the contribution of genealogy to eugenics I highly recommend reading the book by Christine Kenneally on "The Invisible History of the Human Race". Here's a review from the New York Times: