Best of 2016 - Brad Argent, DNA and Identity

Brad Argent (Ancestry) gave a talk in October at the Central Library on DNA. The talk came after the Family History Expo in Auckland, and was focused on the science of identity. As Brad said, DNA testing is no longer "just" a tool to help you work out your family history. It is so much more than that and it brings with it potential issues.

He posed some thought-provoking questions:

Does the absence of something in you change who you are, and how you see yourself? For example, if you grew up in a Māori community, and saw yourself as Māori, then get a genetic result back that says you're not Māori... do you stop being Māori overnight? He talked about the memetic self  - that is, the part of you made up of those "things" passed down to you through your culture, your family, and the family stories.

What, he asked, happens when you've grown up hearing stories but learn you are not biologically connected to them? Do they just go away?

Likewise, if you learn you're adopted and want to find out who your parents are, does that then negate all the family stories your adoptive parents gave you, that you grew up with, that have shaped who you are?

Someone raised the point in the talk about the security of your DNA with the firms that test it. Brad asked the question: what is your responsibility with your DNA and the information contained in it, that could affect a whole lot of people?

I could go on and on, but take a listen (or a re-listen) to this fascinating talk yourself on YouTube.

The talk is captioned, and you can check out other speakers from the Auckland Libraries Lunchtime series on our family history YouTube playlist.

DNA is an incredible new tool but also with an unknown future. Brad made the point that we no longer build up our identity over years and years of painstaking research, microfiche-by-microfiche, card-by-card, record-by-record. Now we spit in a tube, six or eight weeks later click on a button, and suddenly we are, potentially, someone else. A lot to think about in the amazing world of family history research.

Author: Joanne - Research Central