BIGS Book Reviews


Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies

Editor: Debbie Parker Wayne

Review  by Larry Noedel

BIGS donated this book, published in 2019, to the Bainbridge Public Library earlier this year. The title accurately describes what it is: a set of 14 scholarly articles on various aspects of advanced DNA techniques and issues. Each is presented as a separate chapter. It’s a big book with just under 400 pages, measuring 8.5” x 11” and over an inch thick. 

That isn’t to say there aren’t some familiar folks who have contributed. For instance, Blaine Bettinger has written Chapter 2: Visual Phasing Methodology and Techniques, and Judy Russell has written Chapter 12: Ethical Underpinnings of Genetic Genealogy. A section outlining key biographical information about each of the contributors is included. 

While clearly not a book for DNA beginners, there is material that may well interest “intermediate” users. For example, a couple of the least technical chapters that I found worthwhile were: Chapter 5, “Unknown and Misattributed Parentage Research,” by Melissa A. Johnson, and Chapter 14, “The Promise and Limitations of Genetic Genealogy,” by Debbie Kennett. 

The question of what the future might hold for genealogy interests me greatly and Ms. Kennett’s chapter didn’t disappoint. Whether you greet such a future with trepidation or glee, here is her long term outlook as stated in her final paragraph: 

The quality and quantity of genealogical data will continue to improve. Advances in machine learning and sophisticated algorithms will allow the data to be mined in innovative ways. We will learn much more about the effects of population structure on the matching process. Companies will be able to develop bespoke matching algorithms that take into account the amount of endogamy and pedigree collapse in a specific population. At the click of a button we will be able to see which ancestors contributed particular traits to our genome. The faces of our ancestors will be reconstructed through the DNA of their descendants. The time will come when it will be possible to take a DNA test, put your name into a database, and produce an instant, fully sourced family tree, complete with family photographs and composite facial reconstructions. It is likely to be many years before that happens and something we will never see in our own lifetime, but in the meantime, we can all join in on the journey toward the dream.” 

Perhaps the best way for you to decide if this book is for you is to consider the complete list of chapter topics which follows: 

  1. 1. “Lessons Learned from Triangulating a Genome,” Jim Bartlett
  2. “Visual Phasing Methodology and Techniques,” Blaine Bettinger
  3. “X-DNA Techniques and Limitations,” Kathryn J. Johnson
  4. “Y-DNA Analysis for a Family Study,” James W. Owston
  5. “Unknown and Misattributed Parentage Research,” Melissa A. Johnson
  6. “The Challenge of Endogamy and Pedigree Collapse,” Kimberly T. Powell
  7. “Parker Study: Combining atDNA & Y-DNA,” Debbie Parker Wayne
  8. “Would You Like Your Data Raw or Cooked?” Ann Turner
  9. “Drowning in DNA? The Genealogical Proof Standard Tosses a Lifeline,” Karen Stanbary
  10. 10. “Correlating Documentary and DNA Evidence to Identify an Unknown Ancestor,” Patricia Lee Hobbs
  11. 11. “Writing about, Documenting, and Publishing DNA Test Results,” Thomas W. Jones
  12. “Ethical Underpinnings of Genetic Genealogy,” Judy G. Russell
  13. “Uncovering Family Secrets: The Human Side of DNA Testing,” Michael D. Lacopo
  14. “The Promise and Limitations of Genetic Genealogy,” Debbie Kennett

This book now has a home at the Bainbridge Island Public Library. You can put it on hold online and pick it up when it’s available. Or you can stop by, and if it is in the genealogy section, you can take it to any one of the many comfortable spots in the library and peruse it to make sure you want to take it home.