Promised my friend I'd ask about this.

+11 votes
My friend, a Native American woman, due to death and other reasons, is now the legal guardian of her late sister's granddaughter. The girl is 10 now, and knows little or nothing about her African-American father. She's been with this guardian since she was a toddler, does not have memories of any other family/home.

She went to see Black Panther movie, and was totally jazzed. She wants to be the geeky genius inventor girl for Halloween. And now she's announced she wants her DNA done. She got excited by the DNA ad on TV about the black woman who found some Amazon warrior woman ancestor. At least that's how the girl sees it. (The real story will probably be more prosaic.)

They know all about her mother's side of the family, they've been living in the same traditional village for centuries. But not about her father's side. I promised to do what I could to help.

In order to get over the privacy barriers, the girl will need her own profile/account here on WikiTree? Can her legal guardian do it for her? I don't think the girl even has her own email account yet.

Beyond that, what else might be useful? What do we need to know to proceed? What are reasonable expectations about what we might find? I don't know a lot about it even in the old system before the new privacy rules. Advice & assistance & guidance would be very, very welcome.
in The Tree House by Living Winter G2G6 Mach 8 (80.4k points)
retagged by Living Winter
I recommend you start a profile for the girl's mother and father and work out from there as much as possible.

2 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
Hi Elizabeth,

DNA research can be so fulfilling and so frustrating :-) As with all genealogy research, start with what you know and build out her tree a bit. To be honest, the ethnic estimates on most the tests are hit or miss. They get some stuff right. They get some stuff so wrong. My mother-in-law thought we'd missed some fantastic Jewish heritage for a year despite my warnings that the ethnicity estimates were pretty much jokes. Then it disappeared from her results and she let it go. Because she very likely isn't, but happens to have family from regions that have that population.

As far as a WikiTree account, if she's 13 or older, but still a minor, she needs to have a parent/guardian join first. This is their way of showing us they're okay with their child having an account. Then her guardian can create a profile for her. She would have to list her as her own daughter with a note that she's actually her aunt and legal guardian. Once the daughter is older we could move her profile from her aunt to her actual mother as her mother, but we do not allow minor accounts without being attached to their parent at this point due to the GDPR legislation. And yes, she'll need her own email account. If she's younger than 13, then her guardian can create a profile for her, but she won't be able to attach the DNA results to the profile until she's 13.

What else might you need? Be prepared to take notes to try to track down how she's related to her matches. All the information you can muster will help. And probably prepare her for the fact that she really will have no idea what that ethnicity estimate is going to say. There may be any number other ethnicities mixed in.
by Abby Glann G2G6 Pilot (773k points)
selected by Andrew Rubio

Thoughtful and best answer, Abby. Only thing I can see is possibly one tiny line-edit: "...but we do not allow minor accounts without being attached to their parent at this point due to the GDPR legislation."  ;-)

Thanks, Edison :-) I will fix that.
+11 votes
She's a minor, so she can't sign up, but her guardian can make an account for herself and start researching her tree on her behalf.

There is a lot of good info about researching African-American genealogy both here on wikitree (use the search function to check out previous posts here on G2G) and on the web.

In general, it's my understanding that DNA works best when you do it in conjunction with an existing tree.  So I'd put as much personal info about the father in as you can, and as much traditional genealogy as you can do, and then start reading up about DNA.  Hope that helps!
by Crispin Reedy G2G6 Mach 4 (47.0k points)
I'm thinking now maybe we ought to start with an ancestry pie chart. That might satisfy her curiosity. There might be a surprise European component, too.
TV ads lie.  Especially DNA ads.  They'll probably say she's half Native American and half African.  Beyond that, they don't have much data.
Betcha money there's European in there. The African American who has no white ancestry is rare indeed. Langston Hughes, in his memoirs of being a merchant seaman, tells of anticipating his first trip to Africa and being stunned when Africans thought he was white. Malcolm X's autobiography (written by Alex Haley, author of "Roots") talks about Malcolm's mother defiantly specially doting on her darkest children. Haley's family history, told in "Roots", features ancestor Chicken George, who was the progeny of slave & slaveowner. We know that founding father Thomas Jefferson had a slave who bore his children.

That's kind of how slavery worked. After the slave trade was outlawed in 1808, very few slaves were smuggled in. There was therefore an extra premium on keeping the female slaves pregnant throughout their childbearing years. Nobody was particular about who kept them pregnant; owners & their families & employees often contributed to the effort. Optimal age to sell those children, some their OWN children, was 7-10 or so. Still malleable while big enough to work. And so on. This is exactly what has made genealogy so challenging for the descendants of slaves.

Your comment does not indicate you know these things. But surely you must, at least some of it.

In a related vein, DNA is bringing out the large degrees of Native American blood in Hispanics in the Southwest. There's maybe not enough info to tell Apache ancestry apart from Ute, but I think it's starting to emerge that Athabaskans and Aztecs are genetically somewhat distinguishable. I've read how White Nationalists have started trying to discredit DNA pie charts, upset when they find some "non-white" in their own ancestry. I take DNA sequences and associated data analysis as developing science with a long ways to go. (For better or worse, a separate question.)

I started out with crates of paper with thoroughly sourced genealogy. Only found after someone died, so there was no one to talk to about it. It goes back a dozen generations through many, many lines, thoroughly documented. Three of them worked on it over a period of 50 years. About 4500 profiles when I put it in Family Tree Maker, 15+ years ago. I know a lot about my personal ancestry, and I find that my own "pie chart" is a very close match, is well within the error margin for the occasional brick wall. It's certainly possible their sample size is more extensive for my Northern European ancestry than for other demographics/regions so I can see where accuracy might vary. Even if it's off a little, it's reasonably close. Skip Gates takes it seriously, and I take him seriously.

IMO, you're too dismissive as to what can be gleaned on the pie chart level.

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