The use of DNA testing in genealogy is on the rise. RootsTech 2017 had at least 4 vendors offering DNA testing kits, and several more offering help with interpreting your DNA test results. The race is on to build the largest database of DNA test results.
Evidentia does not yet have a toe in the DNA testing pool. However, for the past couple of years, we have been asked how users should enter the results of their DNA tests into Evidentia. This year, we sat down and thought long and hard about that question. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing our thoughts on the subject.
Can Evidentia Help You with Your DNA?
The answer is yes, most definitely.
First, however, we must review what it is we want Evidentia to do for us with regards to our DNA test results.
Evidentia is a tool to help you organize your sources and analyze your evidence. So when it comes to your DNA testing, you need to ask, “What are my sources?” You also need to ask, “What can I use as evidence?”
Once you can answer those two questions, you will know how Evidentia can help you with your DNA research.
What are our Sources?
In Quick Lesson 21: Citing DNA Evidence: Five Ground Rules, Elizabeth Shown Mills states:
“DNA evidence may be brand-spanking new in the history-research world, but it comes to us in old familiar formats: analytical reports, certificates, databases, finding aids, and instructional articles.”[1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 21: Citing DNA Evidence: Five Ground Rules,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-21-citing-dna-evidence-five-ground-rules : posted 29 June 2015; accessed 2017.]
Let’s look at the “analytical reports, certificates, databases, finding aids, and instructional articles” that are part of the genealogy DNA testing library. Some, but not all, will be our sources.
Let’s Get This Party Started
Actually, I ordered 5 DNA test kits, one from each of the testing companies of which I am aware: Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, 23andMe, and Living DNA. This started a barrage of email notifications.
I already have my results from Famly Tree DNA and AncestryDNA since I did those two a while ago.
After ordering my test kits, the following “documents” started to flow in:
- Email acknowledging order received
- An email acknowledging test kit shipped
After shipping back my test kit:
- Email acknowledging kit received
- An email acknowledging my kit received at the lab (apparently this is a different thing)
- An email acknowledging testing complete
Then, my Test Results Arrived (YEAH!)
All of the above qualify as documents, but do they qualify as sources of information that will help you in your research? The answer for me is no.
The first 5 documents do help you track various steps in the testing process: Where is my order? Is the ball in their court or mine? What do I need to do next? These are all important
These are all important tasks, and you can best track tasks in a research log.
This is a theme I will come back to throughout this series. Some documents contain information that users should maintain in a research log. Other documents contain information that users should maintain in Evidentia.
How do you know the difference? If the information in the document (source) can be used as evidence in answering a research question, then the source should be cited, and the claim should be documented in Evidentia.
If you consider again the first 5 documents discussed above, they contain information about the status of the test, which is valuable information. This information will not help you answer your genealogy research questions. However, you do want to track this information – a fact that became really obvious to me once I started ordering tests for my relatives. A research log is the perfect
A research log is a perfect container for this sort of information. You can track dates, responsibilities, and next steps in a research log.
In looking at how Evidentia can help you with your DNA-backed research, we have just started our discovery of “what are our sources.” We have yet to begin digging into the question of “what can we use as evidence?”
Next week we will look into the DNA test results and other documents related to DNA research and share examples of how to cite these sources.
We will also begin to identify the information that can be used as evidence in answering our research question, such as test results, ethnicity reports, third party interpretations, and eventually, those import match notifications.