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  • Familia2010article
  • Familia2010article

Bridging to the Deep Past: Genealogists, Geneticists and the Vexed Matter of ‘False-Paternity

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 26, 2010


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by Donald Harman Akenson

"As we discussed in the last issue of Familia, the field of family history is at present making quantum strides forward through the interaction of human geneticists, traditional genealogists, and scholars of ancient genealogical texts. Exciting times: and like all such moments in scholarly history, the participants would do well to mix a modicum of caution with their justifiable enthusiasm. In the previous article, I suggested that all the players should understand that different specialities operate according to different protocols and that before buying into the conclusions of scholars from neighbouring disciplines, each practitioner had best step back and observe how the neighbours work. Sometimes modes of procedure and standards of proof that are acceptable in one field are not sufficiently robust to work in another.

As an instantiation, it was demonstrated that the apparently authoritative The Chronicle of Ireland, Professor T.M. Charles-Edwards’s speculative presentation of the master-text behind the Irish annals, did not operate at a probative level sufficient to permit historical geneticists or historians of deep genealogy to use it with confidence."

This article looks at the work of one of the world’s top-ranking historical geneticists to remind family historians who are consumers of genetics-based data that they should not simply accept the information they are given, but should examine it, and the assumptions that lie behind the information and do so critically.