31 October 2013

DAR Accepts DNA

... The Second Time Around

A few years ago the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) accepted the use of DNA for membership.  Shortly thereafter, they changed their mind. No doubt this was due to the fact that doing a Y-DNA test can only prove you are connected or not connected to a family and not to a specific person since any males along the Y-line would have the same DNA results (DNA signature). This is understandable. However, it could have disproved existing members if there were some way of testing those lines, thus making membership more accurate.

Many lineage societies have embraced DNA testing for membership years ago, including the Sons of the American Revolution. This month, the DAR has accepted the use of DNA testing under specific guidelines, effective January 1, 2014. There are eight criteria that an applicant must address. Those are explained in a PDF entitled NSDAR Policy on the Use of Y-DNA Evidence for DAR Membership Applications 

In reading numbers 7 and 8, it appears that the DAR is asking that two male descendants from the same patriot be tested at a 37-marker level and that this test results be identical on all these specific markers. The descendant who is applying for membership must match a descendant who is currently a member from the same patriot. This can be problematic, and there are many possible scenarios.

The most obvious issue is for the new applicant to locate a descendant who has membership in the DAR and locate a male from this line to do a Y-DNA test.  Not an easy task in many cases.

Having a perfect match with a DAR member’s male relative is not always possible even if that male and the new applicant are from the same patriot. There is often a mutational difference in the descendants of someone who lived in the 1700s as mutations are can happen anytime. This means that if two descendants of the same patriot tested and there was a mutational difference of one, the applicant would not be eligible. I have seen cases in my Y-DNA projects where the mutation is very recent, thus the one could conclude that the two testers do have the same common ancestor. Although what the DAR is proposing is triangulation (the process of comparing two or more test results to determine the validity of a genealogical connection) there is no explanation that more descendants may need testing to prove the relationship since one son of a patriot could have received a mutation, but not the other son. If any mutation shows in the lineage, the applicant should be able to submit enough tests and a reasonable argument explaining where the mutations occurred and why the patriot is still the ancestor of the applicant.

On the other hand, I know testers who have a perfect match at 37 markers, but when the test is increased to 67 or 111 they have mutational differences that could make them on separate lines of descent. Again, triangulation could help.

This seems to be a way of accepting DNA testing to help support the paper trail or in some cases in lieu of one father-son connection as mentioned in their criteria.  No doubt this can help some applicants, hopefully.  However, it seems that only those with difficulty finding a good paper trial will resort to DNA testing. At least that gives the applicant another avenue, but I would like to see DNA testing submitted where possible, regardless. This way, the DAR would also know if the paper trail is correct. This would help build a DNA database for their future applicants. Granted, not all applicants have a male in their line to test, but by requiring DNA testing of a male for all future applicants where possible, the DAR would have a more accurate picture of their members.

This is a major step for the DAR and they are to be congratulated in allowing applicants to submit DNA testing results with their paper trail. This is still putting a lot of weight on the paper trail so if an applicant does not match an existing line through a DNA test, the applicant could merely submit the paper work, but not the test. All genealogists know the problems with using paper records for proof and all genetic genealogists know that DNA testing is the most accurate tool a genealogist has.

Welcome to the gene pool, Daughters of the American Revolution.


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