Sunday, May 27, 2018

DNA - Good Enough for the DAR?

Part of the fun of being a genealogist is being familiar with all of the societies that you are eligible to join as a result of your descent from certain groups of ancestors. I am being officially inducted into the Anne Bailey Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution next month, along with my mother and grandmother. I also have ancestors that make me eligible for most of the other major societies, including the Daughters of 1812, Daughters of the Confederacy, Associated Daughters of Early American Witches, Winthrop Society, Colonial Dames of the 17th Century, and the Jamestown Society. Much to my aggravation, I have yet to find an ancestor making me eligible for the Mayflower Society.

All of these societies require documented proof for each generation that connects you to the qualifying ancestor, including birth, marriage, and death information. This information can sometimes be very challenging to obtain for various reasons - courthouse fires, lack of proper record-keeping, and name misspellings are the usual culprits. Sometimes, if you're lucky, family genealogy books tracing a single family name or all of the descendants of one ancestor were written before the original documents were destroyed; but even then, the books are only accepted in specific cases. In many cases, you might know that you descend from a specific ancestor because of family tradition, letters, Bible records that are no longer accessible to you, etc., and not have the official records to prove it because of one of the reasons listed above.

This person who matches my grandmother's DNA descends
rom John McClung, the father of our DAR ancestor, 
Samuel McClung. This is an example of an ancestor
"hint" received on Ancestry when two DNA matches
have the same ancestor in their tree.
There have been so many occasions when I wished that the DAR (or any of the other societies) would accept Ancestry DNA results as proof of lineage. Ancestry has a "hints" system in its interface for DNA matches, which points shows you how you are related to someone that you match with. If you and the DNA match have the same ancestor in your trees, you both receive a "hint." Not exactly 100% concrete with just one match, but if you have several hints that all connect back to the same ancestor, I would say that it is beyond reasonable doubt that you are both descended from the same ancestor. 

The DAR began accepting Y-DNA results (which can only be carried through direct male lines) as a supplement to applications in 2014, but you still have to have exact documentation for every generation. As far as I know, the DAR is the only society that accepts even Y-DNA, although I'm not really sure what the advantage of submitting it would be. This is the explanation that the DAR gives: 

"DAR begins accepting Y-DNA evidence, effective January 1, 2014, in support of new member applications and supplemental applications. DNA evidence submitted along with other documentation will be considered along with all of the other source documentation provided to prove heritage. Y-DNA will not be considered as stand-alone proof of linage because, while it can be used as a tool to point to a family, it cannot be used as absolute proof for an individual. For those applicants wishing to submit DNA evidence as proof of lineage along with their other traditional proof documentation, they must submit Y-DNA test results from at least two test subjects following criteria outlined in the guidelines and test requirements for Using DNA Evidence for DAR Applications." (The source for this quote can be found here.)

I hope that at some point in the near future, genealogical societies will begin to take autosomal DNA results (the scientific name for Ancestry DNA, which can be carried through men or women) as an acceptable proof of lineage, or perhaps in support of other documentation that is less exact, such as census records prior to 1850. Perhaps the following rules could be put in place:

1. The DNA matchs must be within a certain number of generations (say, no more than 8).
2. You must produce at least 3 DNA matches who descend from the same ancestor.
3. At least one of the DNA matches must already be a member.

What are your thoughts on genealogical societies accepting autosomal DNA as proof of lineage? Please let me know!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your successful application into the DAR. Sounds as though you have your eye on many of the other societies out there and I wish you luck with those as well. I joined DAR in 2016 and Y-DNA was a big part of my application in addition to affidavits. I blogged about my journey here:

    If you've seen this already my apologies in sharing again. I do think societies will start using DNA beyond the scope of Y-DNA to include autosomal DNA as time goes on and in very specific cases. At least it is my hope. :)

    IG: @ancestryadrienne



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