Friday, June 5, 2015

Intermediate Genetic Genealogy Feels Like Immersion Language Learning

One of my frustrations with genetic genealogy education is that there are two levels: introductory and advanced.  There is very little intermediate level training, and not a lot of practical material.

Putting it into a Jamboree context: one either can go to sessions and learn that there are four types of DNA testing (autosomal, X, Y, and mitochondrial), yada yada yada, or Dr. Tim Janzen talking about chromosomal mapping.  I sit in the latter watching people with blank stares looking at screens trying to figure out what is happening. I later talk with people who say they understood about 40% of what was being said.

Truthfully, going onto most genetic genealogy websites or advanced seminars is like immersion language learning - you jump in and hope to learn by osmosis.  Apparently, this is considered the normal way of learning this stuff, and some people actually recommend this as if it is an ideal pedagogical approach.

Someone needs to come up with a practical training program for genetic genealogy that walks real people through taking real data files to create real spreadsheets about real people. Dr. Janzen is to be commended for trying, but he isn't there yet. Showing Power Points of unreadable rows and columns of data is too daunting for most people.

Until someone can present this stuff to non-genetic genealogists in a comprehensible manner, genetic genealogy will remain a niche area.  It can be as simple as a website that presents links to all of the existing information on other websites in ascending order of complexity.  There are some laudible attempts but nothing really cuts it for me, and if what I want exists, lots and lots of people including me don't really know about it.

I suspect some people may enjoy being part of an elite educated group, but it sucks for the genealogical purpose of sharing useful information.

I disagree with the advice but empathize with the reasons why Diahan Southard recommended in a workshop yesterday that newbies NOT upload their files to GEDMatch.com - it is too confusing and might scare them away.  My recommendation would be to upload their data (it is free) and then leave, and come back again someday when they know what the tools actually provide.  We need the data so those of us who are further along can learn from their matches.