The Changing Norms of Genealogy – Dealing With DNA

Twice a year, my local genealogy society holds a free Meet a Genealogist Day at a regional library.  The well attended event allows the general public with little knowledge of genealogy to meet with a professional to kick start their research.  Over the years that I’ve participated, the trend has been more and more questions about DNA. 

The genealogy society does provide free classes on a variety of topics during the year but unfortunately, most are held during the day which working people can’t attend.  I think that’s one of the reasons the Meet a Genealogist Day is so widely attended as it’s held on a Saturday. 

I just received an email with the new date and a new format.  The event will be held in two rooms – one for general research (which I call old school methods) and the other for those interested only in DNA research. 

I’m not sure where I’ll be placed as I’m fine with either group but I am looking forward to the “data” that shows the interest level of the two groups.  One part of me says that it’s all the same – that you need to use both historical record research and DNA results.  The other part of me, from my participating in past events, understands why there is a new division.  People are getting DNA results and not understanding what they mean or how to move forward with their findings. 

I’m not criticizing the companies who are providing the results.  Most have done an amazing job with giving lots of helpful information on their sites.  Even so, it is overwhelming to many and unfortunately, sometimes the results are disappointing. 

We all know real life is not T.V., however, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone came to me saying they thought they’d find a family connection with an entire tree done once they had their DNA results back.  Then there’s the smaller number of people who insist that the DNA lab messed up their results and that they aren’t the ethnicity that was stated.  A few have insisted that the results were just plain wrong when the results show they aren’t related to a known relative.  I know of one local genealogist who insists that happened.  Interestingly, the individual did not get retested.  Personally, if this happened to me I would contact the company AND I would test with another company to compare results.  Mistakes happen but I’ve never ever heard that the mistake was made by the lab. 

So, the underlying issue is having difficulty accepting the DNA results. Like with all of life’s disappointments, that healing takes time.

Reuniting the Lost and Found

A few weeks ago I blogged about the very worthy Field of Honor database project in the Netherlands that memorializes fallen World War 2 soldiers. Strangely, as I was writing that article, I was contacted by an Ancestry.com member who I first connected with last spring about her DNA.

One of her parents was adopted and she was trying to see if we were related as I had placed information from the same geographical area she was researching on my Ancestry.com tree for the same surnamed individual. There were other coincidences – they had the same occupation, religion, place where they immigrated from and where they immigrated to about the same time (early 1900’s). We were thinking they were related but after comparing our DNA results, they weren’t blood relations.

The Ancestry member had received an email from another member who was contacted by someone in the Netherlands who found World War 2 dog tags using a metal detector and wanted to send them to family. I was contacted since we had the same surname – Koss – as the found tags who once belonged to Joseph E. Koss who died in 1944 in Holland.

I reached out to the memorial owner at Findagrave.com but he was not a relative. If you are a family member of a Joseph Koss please email me (see contact me page) and I will happily connect you so you can get the tags.

I’ve blogged in the past about scammers and I’ve read about fake dog tags being sold in Viet Nam but this does not smell like a scam to me but to keep my readers safe – I’ll play middleman for you. Using a metal detector and finding a lost object is typical in my world as that’s one of my husband’s hobbies and he has found and returned lost articles for people for years.

Funny how I’ve been contacted by folks living in the Netherlands twice in the past few weeks – maybe that’s where I should go visit next!