Something has come to my attention since I started working as a genealogist... There are still a lot of people out there that have no clue what DNA is all about and what it can do. I'm not talking about analyzing centimorgan numbers. That can be tricky and it's understandable that people don't understand that part of it. I mean, some people don't even understand that DNA can help determine who you are related to. There have been times while researching that I've contacted a DNA match and asked how they are related to a specific family. They often don't know. They may be adopted or confused about their family. I offer to help and sometimes get odd responses. Here are some examples...
An older woman once told me, "You won't be able to find my parents, they are long dead I'm sure. They wouldn't have done a DNA test." This is completely not true of course. It makes no difference if the family members you are looking for are alive, dead or have submitted DNA. DNA can be used to trace your family back several centuries sometimes. Working backwards, your birth parents can usually be narrowed down to the right people, or at least the right family.
Another lady got insulted when I mentioned that I could find her parents. She was adopted long ago and spent years looking and said she had no information and couldn't get paperwork anywhere. I believe her exact words were, "How dare you tell me that you can find my parents when I have been looking all these years and found nothing. A complete stranger would not be able to help me." YIKES! I have to laugh when people say they have no information. If you have DNA results, you have the best information of all.
In a newsgroup post, I once read about a guy who was very confused about his ethnicity being incorrect. He mentioned that he had all kinds of documents: Birth, marriage, and death certificates, and other family records. He even went to Europe and visited distant cousins there. While documents and family stories can certainly be useful, they sometimes don't tell the real story. I often find things wrong in people's family trees. Something I've heard numerous times is, "I have birth certificates, so I'm sure it's correct." Always remember, the name of any father can be put on a birth certificate. It definitely does not mean it's correct. I've also seen adoption records that were clearly falsified. The only information that can't be disputed is DNA. If something doesn't seem right, trust the DNA, not the documents.
Next, there's the people who don't believe DNA is reliable. Yes, it's true, there really are people who think DNA results can be wrong. There are some situations where results can be inconclusive if there's not enough data, but the results are never "wrong." I've even heard people say, "I see all these people on my match list, but I don't know them. I don't think they're really related to me." Yes, you really are related to all those people. Most people have thousands of DNA matches. All of them share common ancestors with you at some point in history.
Some people go into total denial because they don't like what they see or because they don't like that something was exposed. DNA may reveal a secret family member, or you may find out someone you thought was a family member isn't really biologically related. Sometimes people can't accept this type of thing and they choose to just say, "No way, this didn't really happen." Even in obvious situations, like if a half sibling match appears, people will say, "No, my parent didn't have a secret kid." They will try to somehow explain it away or just ignore it. I've even been involved with situations where I discovered someone's father wasn't who they thought. The mother was questioned and said, "Oh yeah, I dated that guy, but he can't be your father, that was years before you were born. The DNA must be wrong." Really! The DNA match list just happens to show people related to a guy you once dated, but not the guy you claim to be the father? Let's get real.
So, it's pretty clear that a lot of people out there just don't get it. You would think that with all the forensic TV shows talking about DNA these days, people would understand that DNA is like magic. It can solve crimes, and it can certainly find your family and your family secrets. If you have someone on your DNA match list that doesn't seem to make sense, feel free to contact me. Maybe I can help. Understanding DNA data can be very complex. There's a reason why everyone is on your match list. Let's figure it out!
In my next post, I'll give an example of how easy some family searches can be.