Some of you may remember the story that appeared in The New York Times last April describing the great lengths that some genealogists will go to to obtain DNA for their family research. To be honest, it is completely rational to expect a stranger to act with some suspicion when asked for his DNA. Our DNA holds the key to our identity after all. How do we know what a "stranger" might do with it? That information about our genetic predisposition to certain diseases might not somehow end up in the hands of our insurance company, for example?
It's hard enough to explain DNA testing to the relatives who know me. I have several who would probably view it with suspicion, and might only participate in such a project out of love and trust in me. So how do I go about convincing a complete stranger (albeit a related stranger) to send me a cheek swab? My great grandmother Pattie Crisp Owens had a brother named Claude Mancil Crisp, but my research indicates that he only had a daughter. So to get the necessary DNA I have to go back to the male descendants of Pattie's half-brothers (Mack married three times), or the male descendants of Mack's brothers. I've located a few likely candidates, but have yet to work up the nerve to contact them to ask them to participate in the Crisp DNA Project. How do I ask them without scaring them off? These Crisp strangers might not even have an interest in genealogy and have likely never heard of "geneatology." Do I call them? Write them a letter? Make contact in person? I'll offer to pay for the testing of course. But I would still prefer that they not think of me as a nutcase.
Of course, going that far back and sideways in my family tree assumes that Mack Crisp is really my great, great grandfather (not that I have any reason to assume that he is not)...but that's not something I'm going to worry about right now. Instead I'll keep thinking about the best way to ask for that DNA. A whole file drawer full of research on the CRISP family is waiting for this next piece of the puzzle.
Hmmm... Maybe one of those Crisp descendants will read this blog post and contact me to volunteer. I can always dream that it could be so easy!