Saturday, May 21, 2016

Policy: DNA Testing and the Genealogy in Hertfordshire Web Site

Recently I have had a few queries which involve DNA testing and this raises the question of how such matters are best handled on my web site. Your views would be welcome.

Way back in the 1980s (well before the World Wide Web came into its existence) I was involved with the problem of "data protection" and the implications of the international exchange of information about people and what they did, using email and bulletin boards. I even had one of my computer articles on the subject reprinted in a specialist legal journal!

Shortly after the World Wide Web became available I started doing online genealogy and from the start the aim was to help people make the use of the records which were more than 100 years old, or where there were no possible privacy issues involved. In particular it was not the role of the site to help trace living people - and the site was not for tracing details of 20th century adoptions, or tracking down living relatives or old school friends.

The advances in DNA technology over the years means that it is now of limited use in tracking down some ancestral lineages and some people are looking for living male descendants of an ancestor to try and confirm a line - or prove a historical illegitimacy. The recent revelation about the father of the current Archbishop of Canterbury is a case in point. In addition the way the WWW has developed means that the existing privacy guidelines are very widely ignored.

So should I change my policy?

My feeling is that I should not. There are other avenues opening up for people interested in DNA genealogy and there is no point in trying to duplicate them on a web site which is currently having problems because of its size and age. However if there are 19th century (or earlier) cases where a DNA approach could help us understand the documentation I am happy to air the argument (which must include adequate coverage of the documentation) as long as it clearly relates to Hertfordshire.

What do you think?


  1. I think you are right on the money. For the vast majority of genealogists current DNA technologies are a solution looking for a problem rather than the next 'big thing'. I speak as someone with a degree in biological chemistry and many years working in the field of molecular biology.

  2. Best genetics applications?


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