Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Adopts New Standards Regarding DNA Evidence

+21 votes

This public press release is not yet posted on the BCG website,, but I expect it will be tomorrow. Many thanks to Blaine Bettinger for bringing this to our attention quickly. Blaine has been working with and advising the BCG on this effort.

For immediate release 27 October 2018
News Release, Board for Certification of Genealogists

Board for Certification of Genealogists Adopts Standards for DNA Evidence

On 21 October 2018, the Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG) approved five modified and seven new standards relating to the use of DNA evidence in genealogical work. BCG also updated the Genealogist’s Code to address the protection of people who provide DNA samples.

The new measures are intended to assist the millions of family historians who now turn to genetic sources to establish kinships. The action followed a public comment period on proposed standards released by BCG earlier this year.

“BCG firmly believes the standards must evolve to incorporate this new type of evidence,” according to BCG President Richard G. Sayre. “Associates, applicants, and the public should know BCG respects DNA evidence. It respects the complexity of the evidence and the corresponding need for professional standards. BCG does not expect use of DNA to be demonstrated in every application for certification. However, all genealogists, including applicants, need to make sound decisions about when DNA can or should be used, and any work products that incorporate it should meet the new standards and ethical provisions.”

“Standards for Using DNA Evidence,” a new chapter to be incorporated in Genealogy Standards, introduces the issues this way:

“Meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard requires using all available and relevant types of evidence. DNA evidence both differs from and shares commonalities with documentary evidence. Like other types of evidence, DNA evidence is not always available, relevant, or usable for a specific problem, is not used alone, and involves planning, analyzing, drawing conclusions, and reporting. Unlike other types of evidence, DNA evidence usually comes from people now living.”

In brief, the new standards address seven areas:

  • Planning DNA tests. The first genetic standard describes the qualities of an effective plan for DNA testing including types of tests, testing companies, and analytical tools. It also calls for selecting the individuals based on their DNA’s potential to answer a research question.
  • Analyzing DNA test results. The second genetic standard covers factors that might impact a genetic relationship conclusion, including analysis of pedigrees, documentary research, chromosomal segments, and mutations, markers or regions; also, composition of selected comparative test takers and genetic groups.
  • Extent of DNA evidence. The third genetic standard describes the qualities needed for sufficiently extensive DNA data.
  • Sufficient verifiable data. The fourth genetic standard addresses the verifiability of data used to support conclusions.
  • Integrating DNA and documentary evidence. The fifth genetic standard calls for a combination of DNA and documentary evidence to support a conclusion about a genetic relationship. It also calls for analysis of all types of evidence.
  • Conclusions about genetic relationships. The sixth genetic standard defines the parameters of a genetic relationship and the need for accurate representation of genealogical conclusions.
  • Respect for privacy rights. The seventh genetic standard describes the parameters of informed consent.

The modifications made to several existing standards call for:

  • Documentation of sources for each parent-child link.
  • Where appropriate, distinction among adoptive, foster, genetic, step, and other kinds of familial relationships.
  • Use of graphics as aids, for example: genealogical charts and diagrams to depict proved or hypothesized relationships; or lists and tables to facilitate correlation of data and demonstrate patterns or conflicts in evidence.
  • Explanations of deficiencies when research is insufficient to reach a conclusion.

A new edition of Genealogy Standards is expected to be ready by next March. A new application guide and judging rubrics incorporating the new standards will be released at about the same time. In the interim, portfolios submitted for consideration for certification will be evaluated using the existing Genealogy Standards.

in The Tree House by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (250k points)

A quick follow-on. The BCG published the press release on their website a couple of hours ago. You can view it at

1 Answer

+6 votes
Edison, you are constantly coming up with great insights and resources.  The BCG has some interesting links but I have the impression that the new standards will only be available in the future publication and not online.  Is that correct a correct inference?
by Thom Anderson G2G6 Mach 4 (45.6k points)

I think all we can be certain of at this point is that, yep, the new additions will be incorporated into the next edition of BCG's Genealogy Standards by next March; the last, the 50th Anniversary Edition, was published in 2014. Given the interest in this particular effort, though, it wouldn't surprise me if the new section might not appear online prior to that.

The published version will be substantially different, but the first public draft from late last spring is still available online at The key words being draft and proposed. But if nothing else I believe the brief PDF file will indicate the intent and some of the areas covered.

Mind you, as someone who's worked with the International Organization for Standards (ISO) and its 162-nation cohort, I view the BCG Genealogy Standards publication as something that actually mixes auditable standards and guidance frameworks together (an ISO no-no). And since the BCG certifies genealogists, not geneticists, the new "standards" aren't a prescriptive how-to and aren't meant to be: they declare the requirements for reasonably exhaustive planning, analysis, and evaluation, but the presumption is that the genealogist already has the requisite scientific knowledge and experience to bring to bear on the particular problem statement or hypothesis at hand.

I personally view it as an important step, and one that is about as far as BCG can go within its current scope. I still feel there's a need for a specialty-specific genetic genealogy accreditation, perhaps something akin to what the American Board of Medical Specialties did when they introduced what they call "Focused Practice Designation" about 18 months ago. A bit more commentary and some additional links here.

something that actually mixes auditable standards and guidance frameworks together (an ISO no-no).

Who even knows stuff like this (or wants to know)?  I bow before Edison, the super-wonk.

And here I thought somebody would call me out on the deeply groan-worthy trochaic monometer of "ISO no-no." Not for being a super-wonk. You do know that if I put a big red "W" on my cape it will just come off looking like a monogram? I can't win...

"trochaic monometer"  WTH.  Can we stick to English, please?

"if I put a big red "W" on my cape"  So, you admit that you have a cape...

Garçon? Excuse me, garçon? The decorated physician at the next table is disrupting our meal; constantly making fun of me. I wonder if you might seat us elsewhere in the restaurant...


I'm sorry.  Was I interrupting your dinner with Watson and Crick?

We'll be here all week, folks. The show starts at 8:00 each weekday evening. And please be sure to tip the waitstaff!


(On a serious note, James Watson, now 90, was in a serious one-vehicle accident last Friday in Syosset, New York, near the Cold Spring Harbor Lab where he still works. The car he drove veered off the road and went down a 20-foot embankment. He sustained a head injury and was airlifted to a hospital. Watson's son has indicated he hopes his father will be well enough to return to work sometime this week.)

On that somber note, I think our run has come to an end, particularly since we've been playing to an empty house for hours.

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