Counting Chromosomes
A blog of random musings on genealogy, genetics, science, and history

However, all genealogists, including applicants, need to make sound decisions about when DNA can or should be used, and any work products that incorporate it should meet the new standards and ethical provisions.
     —Richard G. Sayre, President, BCG

BCG
Founded in 1964 by leading American genealogists, BCG fosters public confidence in genealogy as a respected branch of history. Click the image above to visit the BCG website and learn more.

The following public press release is not yet published on the BCG website, bcgcertification.org, but I expect it will be tomorrow. I am posting it here—admittedly redundantly since it will be on the BCG website and all the genealogy blogs almost instantly—because I have a very brief tangential preface, and because this simply is big news.

Update: the BCG posted the press release on its website early Sunday morning, 28 October. You can view it at bcgcertification.org/standards-for-dna-evidence.

Many thanks to Blaine Bettinger for bringing this to our attention quickly on his Facebook Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques Group. Blaine has been working with and advising the BCG on this effort.

Tangent

In a recent and, as it proved to be, controversial post, I described that I have been an advocate of a formal method of accreditation for genetic genealogists. I'm afraid I described that position poorly, and also did not take into account the audience majority who have not been, in their careers, accustomed to the variety of professional, trade, compliance, and instructional certifications common in my business experience.

I am long overdue for a follow-up attempt to clarify my position, but I need to be clear: this is not that update, and the type of accreditation I was speaking of is unrelated to this announcement from BCG and its important press release about its new DNA standards. In my September post I intended to reference a type of specialty certification; for example, perhaps analogous to the American Board of Medical Specialties or their Focused Practice Designation program.

BCG's work is providing guidance and certification for genealogists. I can think of only two genealogists I've spoken with in the past year who do not believe DNA is now a vital element in evidentiary practice for genealogy. I was one of those who provided comment earlier this year to BCG regarding development of these new standards, knowing full well that the type of accreditation I've had in mind for a few years is beyond BCG's scope. They do not certify geneticists; they certify genealogists.

I want to thank BCG and all those who actively participated and advised on this effort. I consider this a very important development for the practice of genealogy. Even if you have no immediate interest in pursuing BCG certification, I believe the guidance offered is a benchmark for all genealogists. The new standards to be published in March 2019 will be included in a new edition of BCG's Genealogy Standards. I'm sure the current 50th Anniversary Edition of Genealogy Standards is already on your bookshelves.

For Immediate Release 27 October 2018

News Release, Board for Certification of Genealogists

Board for Certification of Genealogists Adopts Standards for DNA Evidence

On 21 October 2018, the Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG) approved five modified and seven new standards relating to the use of DNA evidence in genealogical work. BCG also updated the Genealogist's Code to address the protection of people who provide DNA samples.

The new measures are intended to assist the millions of family historians who now turn to genetic sources to establish kinships. The action followed a public comment period on proposed standards released by BCG earlier this year.

"BCG firmly believes the standards must evolve to incorporate this new type of evidence," according to BCG President Richard G. Sayre. "Associates, applicants, and the public should know BCG respects DNA evidence. It respects the complexity of the evidence and the corresponding need for professional standards. BCG does not expect use of DNA to be demonstrated in every application for certification. However, all genealogists, including applicants, need to make sound decisions about when DNA can or should be used, and any work products that incorporate it should meet the new standards and ethical provisions."

"Standards for Using DNA Evidence," a new chapter to be incorporated in Genealogy Standards, introduces the issues this way:

"Meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard requires using all available and relevant types of evidence. DNA evidence both differs from and shares commonalities with documentary evidence. Like other types of evidence, DNA evidence is not always available, relevant, or usable for a specific problem, is not used alone, and involves planning, analyzing, drawing conclusions, and reporting. Unlike other types of evidence, DNA evidence usually comes from people now living."

In brief, the new standards address seven areas:

  • Planning DNA tests. The first genetic standard describes the qualities of an effective plan for DNA testing including types of tests, testing companies, and analytical tools. It also calls for selecting the individuals based on their DNA's potential to answer a research question.
     
  • Analyzing DNA test results. The second genetic standard covers factors that might impact a genetic relationship conclusion, including analysis of pedigrees, documentary research, chromosomal segments, and mutations, markers or regions; also, composition of selected comparative test takers and genetic groups.
     
  • Extent of DNA evidence. The third genetic standard describes the qualities needed for sufficiently extensive DNA data.
     
  • Sufficient verifiable data. The fourth genetic standard addresses the verifiability of data used to support conclusions.
     
  • Integrating DNA and documentary evidence. The fifth genetic standard calls for a combination of DNA and documentary evidence to support a conclusion about a genetic relationship. It also calls for analysis of all types of evidence.
     
  • Conclusions about genetic relationships. The sixth genetic standard defines the parameters of a genetic relationship and the need for accurate representation of genealogical conclusions.
     
  • Respect for privacy rights. The seventh genetic standard describes the parameters of informed consent.
     

The modifications made to several existing standards call for:

  • Documentation of sources for each parent-child link.
     
  • Where appropriate, distinction among adoptive, foster, genetic, step, and other kinds of familial relationships.
     
  • Use of graphics as aids, for example: genealogical charts and diagrams to depict proved or hypothesized relationships; or lists and tables to facilitate correlation of data and demonstrate patterns or conflicts in evidence.
     
  • Explanations of deficiencies when research is insufficient to reach a conclusion.
     

A new edition of Genealogy Standards is expected to be ready by next March. A new application guide and judging rubrics incorporating the new standards will be released at about the same time. In the interim, portfolios submitted for consideration for certification will be evaluated using the existing Genealogy Standards.