Friday, April 27, 2018

No spit sample in the mail to Utah for me -- for now

So, have you had your DNA tested? And have you been reading about the arrest in Sacramento of Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, a suspect in the "Golden State Killer" case --- located with an assist from the online DNA profiles of some of his distant relatives?

In a way, that's wonderful --- and I hope the gentleman, if guilty, is brought to justice.

On the other hand, if I had a criminal background (or were planning to develop one), I don't think I'd take advantage of the DNA Day sale, advertised above, offered through a research site --- decidedly NOT free --- that I subscribe too.

The disclaimer --- investigators reportedly used a free Florida-based operation called GEDmatch that allows users to share their genetic profiles online to track down the suspect. Not Ancestry offers all sorts of privacy safeguards.

On the other hand, there is no such thing as absolute privacy in this digital age --- and DNA testing services have no control over what users do with their raw profiles once they've been bought and paid for. Nor can they resist a subpoena. 

It's a fascinating subject to think about --- and if I were a conspiracy theorist I might be spending sleepless nights fantasizing about aliens probing my DNA via their laptops after having paid membership dues.


To date,  however, I've never had the least interest in taking advantage of one of these DNA offers.

Part of the explanation involves my maternal grandfather, who sparked an interest in genealogical research that I've pursued off and on since high school.

I enjoy collecting and telling the stories of my forebears and probably, if you share the names of a couple of your more recent ancestors, can tell you if we're related or not.

But during all of those years of research neither I nor anyone else I'm related to by blood has been able to locate any trace of an ancestor who was not British or Germanic, white and protestant.

And, yes I know my ancestors would have been Catholic before the Reformation and, before that, pagans of some sort. But excessively long lists of antecedents receding without attached stories into the mists of time cause my eyes to glaze over.


On the other hand, if I ever find any indication that some of my boring pasty-faced ancestors might have had roots that were sub-Saharan African, Oriental, Romani, Eastern European, Hispanic, Jewish, Native American--- even Irish Catholic --- I'd be hauling out the credit card and sending a spit sample off to Utah faster than you could say "Adam and Eve." What fun that would be!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I count genealogical progress by generations. Each parent is 1/2 of a generation, each grandparent 1/4, etc. Supposed ancestors in those long lists quickly diminish to minuscule fractions of a generation.

My colonial ancestors each count for less than one millionth of a generation, unless they appear in multiple lines. And given human inclination for straying, and the possibility of informal adoptions, the probability that all of those on the long list are really my genetic ancestors is questionable at best.

Bill H.