Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky

Modern Frauds

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When I think of genealogical frauds I usually think about those quirky amateur genealogies published in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Lofty connections with little or no evidence. Lots of oral history.

Then too, I think of the defenders of this old material. Generally people who fulfilled the requirements for a high school diploma some time in the ancient past, but never again gave a thought to study or thinking.

But now we have a new cottage industry of genealogical fraud. The new style of fraud uses DNA testing but piles on particular kinds of pseudo-science.

Like their predecessors, they aren’t setting out to deceive, nor are they (usually) profiting from it.

And, like their predecessors, the main problem is that they don’t actually have the education it would take to evaluate the claims they are making so confidently.

One example is Finding Ancient Ancestors with Chromosome Mapping. I spent some time with them in their Facebook group Chromosome Mapping of Ancient Bloodlines Project. Enough to see from the inside that they really are doing what it looks like they’re doing. This particular group is creating new, generally fake or at best highly speculative, lines to medieval royalty and nobility by “matches” among their members.

Other groups use the same methodology to create new and fake lines to the Native Americans of the Colonial American seaboard. I’ve seen quite a bit of activity among the so-called “Cheraw Nation” and among those claiming descents from Pocahontas.

The basic sleight of hand used by these groups is easy to spot. Scientists say short DNA segments are useless for mapping relationships. Anything smaller than, say about 5 to 7 cM, is just as likely to be the result of a new combination as it is to be something inherited from an ancestor who lived generations back. A common way of expressing this difference is to say the matching segment might be Identical by State rather than Identical by Descent.

These groups disdain that evidence. For them, a match is a match.

One very easy way to think about this problem is to ask yourself whether the two people who match know all their ancestors in the generation where they are speculating a common ancestor. This is pretty straightforward. If they don’t know all their ancestors, how do they know they don’t have some other relationship that would account for the match?

I plan to write more on this topic in the future. I have some detailed notes on individual scenarios but I want to make sure I’m handling personal information appropriately. And I want to find the right way to talk about a couple of cases where proponents of these frauds are claiming (falsely) that they have buy-off from prominent genetic genealogists.

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Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky
Justin Swanstrom

Justin Swanstrom

Made in America. Retired attorney. Bookseller at Shining Lotus. No Nazis in Valhalla. He/him.

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