I love genealogy, but it has its downfalls. Those downfalls eventually made me trust in the science of DNA testing more than genealogy. Why? People can lie. And why use old tools? We are now in the Genomics Age. It is time to go beyond interrogating your Hatfield and McCoy relatives. DNA doesn’t lie.
I have had a hate-love relationship with genealogy for quite a while now. Genealogy too often has given me the silent treatment and not treated me as well as I had hoped. It was time for a new romance. I was a diligent lover of genealogy. I paid attention and played by the rules- interviewing family members, filling out family trees, going on genealogy forums, and researching for ancestors properly. My husband and I even trekked hundreds of miles to different library archives and nearly went blind trying to read microfiche before they published they published genealogy public records online.
None of it mattered. There were too many skeletons in my genealogy closet. There were ancestors who skipped across county lines and changed their names. One just disappeared. And no one was talking. One aunt hung up on me and another told me to give up. It was frustrating trying to unlock my genealogy secrets. My father actually told me, “If you keep digging, you will find people you do not want to be related to.” But even if you do not have a murky ancestral past, genealogy is not perfect.
Why not? First of all, there can be blind spots and unverified lines -like adoption- in our genealogy research and public records. If we just ignore this, or are unaware of it, that entire line of ancestry is incorrect. This can be multiplied if we then share our family tree. For instance, I have several great grandmothers far back in some of my ancestral lines who are listed with only the first name. No further information is given or can be discovered.
That is a blind spot in genealogy, but it does not mean that “Mary” did not have her own personal family history and story which has added to your story. And Genealogy and sex do not mix. In fact, genealogy would have one think that not one woman in all of civilization ever cheated on her husband. However, the further back you follow any line in your family tree increases the odds of a “non-paternity” event of either adoption or an unknown dalliance.
No one wants to believe their parents or grandparents had sex, but if they did not, you would not be here, and not all sex that has happened during history is just between the known marriage partner. I have a friend who was told quite late in life that her father was not her father. Why did she ask? Her DNA testing results did not make sense otherwise, and she confronted her mother with them. Soap operas aren’t just on television. Her elderly mother confessed to an affair when her husband was at war.
Also, many people changed surnames when they immigrated to America because of Jewish or other exotic ancestry. That can mean that you do not really understand the ancestry of this line. I have two cases of this in my own family genealogy that I discovered. One was my grandmother’s maiden name. It explains my DNA testing results with the Jewish markers as the original name is Jewish.
Again, genealogy can lie because people can lie. You can get incorrect information from your family about your genealogy as they may not wish to divulge any family secrets, and you can get other incorrect information from genealogy forums from researchers who have not done proper research and/or have unknown errors.
That is not to say genealogy cannot be fun. However, realize it is limited and can be flawed. For those reasons, I turned to DNA testing for genealogy purposes.
Not all DNA testing is the same, but if you have a company that is well backed by science and has an ISO certified lab, then you know that you can find some real answers about your family history. I discovered my Melungeon match first with autosomal DNA testing. I was skeptical at first, but I later got documentation from my great aunt that it was so. DNA doesn’t lie.