extended family and DNA

November and December holidays. Perfect time to connect with kin. Find out who else in the extended family might have stories or photos or other artifacts—and who might be interested in getting copies of yours! So drop them a line (parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins of all degrees) this holiday season, ask for contact information for family you don’t know well, and share!

This was the topic of our October 2016 meeting of the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group. Holidays are a fine time to recruit some DNA testers in the family too…. But there are some things you need to consider first.

If you’re talking to someone you’re close to, go ahead and share your enthusiasm about how their saliva or spit can help you crack a genealogy brick wall. If you’re writing to someone you’re not close to, it’s probably best to simply bring up your involvement in genealogy and willingness to share what you have. You can mention that you’ve even taken the DNA test, just to test the waters, but don’t ask someone you hardly know for their DNA right off the bat. Maybe they’ll reply with an interest and then you can follow up, as you feel comfortable.

There are many things to bear in mind when recruiting more relatives to take DNA tests. In previous meetings, our group talked about who in the family may be the most valuable candidates and what tests suit your needs best. In our October meeting, we focused on issues involved with having another person in your family willing to consider DNA testing. Here are some of those points:

Who is going to pay for it? (In most cases, our group has found that folks expected the family genealogist to bite the bullet. After all, we’re the ones getting the most benefit. But at least there are often sales at the holidays! In fact, you can order multiple kits to use later: they are usually good for a year or so.)

There are Genetic Genealogy Standards. Among them is the acknowledgement that regardless of who pays, the person who contributes the DNA owns it. Your recruit is entitled to access all results and even to change their mind and instruct you to delete their account and results. Review these standards before you solicit someone.

Always be sure that a prospective tester understands the ‘risk’ of an NPE (Not the Parent Expected). DNA tests can reveal unknown children, unknown half-siblings, etc.

The family member may have concerns about privacy, or companies selling their data for medical research and profit. Tell them how they can access the Terms and Conditions, etc. if they want. In most cases, you can simply advise that they can opt in or opt out of many such features, and ask if they just want you to set up their account permissions to mirror yours. In most cases, they’ll be fine with that.

Discuss how their identity will display to others. Only to people they are thought to be related to? Will those matches only see their initials?

Are they willing to make a family tree available? How will that be handled?

Usually, you’ll find that they’re happy to have you, the family genealogist, be the contact person for matches. But confirm that. If you are the contact, do they want to be told about their matches or people you communicate with? Maybe they want to know if you discover any first cousins or closer but not anyone more distant than that.

If this recruit has ancestors that you don’t have, how should it be handled if someone not related to you contacts you about this relative’s DNA? Do they want you to handle it as best you can and leave them out of it? Or…?

Does your relative want to see his/her results? At FamilyTreeDNA, each account has a unique login. You can safely share the login with the person whose DNA it is. At 23andMe if you are managing multiple kits with the same email address, it’s not ethical to give your relative that logon info, unless every kit you manage agrees to let each other have access to their DNA results. Instead, you should create a unique email/logon for each tester who will want online access to his/her data. At Ancestry, you don’t want to give your logon info to someone who is not a subscriber, because that wouldn’t be ethical. However, you can share access just to the DNA results—on their DNA results page go to Settings and provide their email address. They may have to register, and they won’t have access to all the tools a subscriber would, but they can see their ethnicity results and list of matches without paying a recurring fee.

You may want to copy the raw data to other tools, such as GEDmatch.com. Get permission, and cover all the same questions regarding how their identity will be shown, who is the contact person, will a tree be posted, etc.

It’s a good idea to confirm these expectations in writing/email too.

Good luck with your family DNA projects and making new discoveries in your family trees! Happy holidays! (And a huge thank you to everyone who has said yes when I asked them to take a DNA test!)

Ann Raymont (c) 2016

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One thought on “extended family and DNA

  1. Pingback: Managing multiple kits – and the new AncestryDNA change | DNAsleuth

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