What is a Genetic Genealogist?

Is there such a thing as a “genetic genealogist” in genealogy today? Should there be such a thing?

In a previous post (“The DNA Era of Genealogy“) we talked about how DNA is a record type, similar to a census record, land record, vital record, or tax record. All of these record types provide evidence that – when combined with other types of evidence – support, weigh against, or reject a genealogical hypothesis.

However, DNA alone cannot prove anything; DNA evidence must be combined with other types of evidence in order to arrive at a solid genealogical conclusion. As a result, it is impossible to be a genetic genealogist and nothing else. To use DNA evidence properly (or at least to its fullest potential), one must also be a good genealogist.

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Assistance Needed!

As you know, I’ve been collecting submissions of known relationships and shared cMs for the Shared cM Project for about 1.5 years, and I have more than 10,000 submissions. (If you have submitted yet and would like to, the form is HERE).

I have a ton of data and recently provided an update (see “Update to the Shared cM Project“). However, there is still much to do. For example, I’d like to analyze the following:

  • Longest segment analysis
  • Known endogamy/pedigree collapse versus no known endogamy pedigree collapse
  • Company breakdowns (23andme v. AncestryDNA v. Family Tree DNA v. GEDmatch)
  • Others? (I’m open to suggestions!)

But I need help! I have time to oversee and assist with the analysis, but I just don’t have time to do it all myself. If you have statistics experience or are otherwise able to assist me with this project over the next month or two, please contact me at blainebettinger@gmail.com. Include your experience and your interest in the project. Thank you!

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The DNA Era of Genealogy

When does DNA prove a relationship? When is a triangulation group sufficiently large enough to prove descent from an ancestral couple? When is a shared DNA segment large enough to prove someone is your first (or second/third/fourth, etc.) cousin? At what point does the DNA prove that I am descended from Samuel Snell? When does the DNA prove that you’ve found your great-grandmother’s biological parents?


And this is, perhaps, one of the greatest misconceptions in the post-DNA era of genealogy.

What is Proof?

Genealogy is the study of lives and relationships. Accordingly, genealogists spend much of their time identifying, hypothesizing, supporting, and sometimes rejecting, relationships.

Unless you have direct knowledge of a relationship (and even sometimes when you do), you identify relationships using evidence that you’ve gathered from multiple different sources (including DNA, census, land, tax, vital, and many other types of records).

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