Friday, June 12, 2020

There's New Blood in that Spit Take

"Your spit has something to say about you," says the text below a wide-eyed woman barely concealing a "yeah, what?" smirk. The online ad is from AncestryDNA and prompts the user to click to "learn more." I never click because, like you, I already have a pretty good idea what that spit has had to say about me. My spit's already been taken.

When the DNA testing craze first hit, it seemed the idea captivated people. Judging by the numbers, the market zoomed upwards impressively. And then, just like so many fads, it crashed and burned. Now—as I think many in the genealogy world assume—only the stalwarts and their proselytes are still testing. The rate at which new matches have been added to my accounts has dribbled, in some cases, to single-digit gains per week.

And yet, the slightest hint of a shift seems to be shining through. Even though most people who rely on DNA testing to augment their genealogy research know that the best family members to test are the oldest, I'm seeing more and more DNA matches—for the accounts that I manage, at least—who are not among those oldest.

Don't think that those are the ones whose results are unattached from any family tree. I'm seeing quite a number of new matches—bright, shiny face alongside their account name—who actually have made a decent go at attaching a tree.

Of course, I haven't exactly done a statistical analysis of this change, so don't hold me to anything here. But is there a shift going on regarding which people are becoming receptive to pursuing their roots?

Perhaps it's the result of a recent series of television programs focused on genealogy. I know that has always been the driving force behind increased interest in everything from genealogy blog posts to  my local genealogy classes. That, however, is usually demonstrated by an increase in numbers, but what I'm seeing this time is a change in the types of people jumping into this genealogical pursuit.

About half a year ago, a young teenage girl approached my daughter, her teacher, asking for a way to learn about genealogy and DNA, in particular. Of course, we were more than happy to help her learn how to start her family tree.

That, though, is not the end of the story. Just yesterday, I opened up my husband's account at AncestryDNA and spotted a new match—a close match—labeled with familiar initials which made me wonder. Sure enough, seeing the account administrator's name when I went to send a message, I knew exactly who it was. I sent an email to the mom of this young man to confirm—and yes, the DNA test was what he requested as his birthday gift. He, too, wants to learn more about his family history.

While I have plenty of chances to mourn, with fellow genealogical society members, who know that at their passing, no one in their family will want to carry on their family history research, I am also seeing refreshing signs that there are young people stepping up to learn how to become part of this fascinating pursuit.

Whether it is the online presence, the computerized systems that make finding documents so much easier, or the scientific flavor that DNA testing lends to the big picture, I'm not sure. Whatever it is, I'm encouraged to see so many new people bring so much youthful energy to the desire to learn more about their roots. It's a fascinating journey—and the longer it is enjoyed, the better.


  1. I haven't had any new close matches in either Ancestry or 23andMe in months. And the connection I've been hoping to make (my missing half brother) has never materialized at all that I can identify. But I keep hoping. I'm now the oldest living family member on my maternal side except for that half brother, which is kind of depressing.

    1. Searches like yours, Sara, are the reason I hate to see the rate of new matches slow to a dribble. For a couple of the companies I've tested with, I sometimes receive barely five matches in a two-week period, where before the numbers used to come in at a double-digit rate.

      However, it may only take one match to lead to the kind of information you are seeking. I hope you will soon find your answer, Sara!

  2. So good to hear about a young person getting involved. I am hoping that happens in our family one day soon:)

    1. I've always had the conviction, Far Side, that eventually, serious keepers of the "family stuff" will find a younger relative to take up the mantle and continue the family history. I am sure someone will step up and get more involved with your research at just the right time.


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