Some readers of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) may be so focused on getting into the newest case studies that they skip over an important piece of NGSQ—the Editors’ Corner. Written each issue by NGSQ co-editors Melinde Lutz Byrne, CG, FASG, and Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, the Editors’ Corner offers views that should be at the forefront of genealogists’ thoughts. It also emphasizes scholarship, and often introduces themes or sets the tone for the current issue.
The Editors’ Corner in the last four issues of NGSQ provides readers with insight on several important topics that affect the genealogical community, including genetic genealogy standards, ethnicity predictions, the distinction between types of family historians, and privacy issues that may impact future genealogical research.
Genetic Genealogy Insights
The September 2014 Editors’ Corner focuses on aspects of genetic genealogy. Last year marked the publication of the eleventh NGSQ case study that rested upon a combination of documentary and genetic evidence. To date, several more case studies that rely, in part, on evidence from genetic test results have been published. Last year was also the first time NGSQ postponed accepting a case study for publication because DNA evidence appeared to be necessary to support the article’s conclusion. Genealogists are now regularly using genetic test results as sources. The editors point out that the newest issue of the Board for Certification of Genealogist’s Genealogy Standards manual, published in 2014, includes several standards that identify DNA as a source of evidence. The September 2014 Editors’ Corner concludes with an excellent comparison—that genealogical scholars can benefit from genetic test results, just as much as family historians focusing on genetics can benefit from historical records.
The June 2015 Editors’ Corner notes that geneticists provide ancestral ethnicity predictions based on biological data and self-reported ancestry alone, which the editors liken to “building on sand.” Unlike genealogists, geneticists do not use other trustworthy sources or variables to help draw their conclusions. The editors point toward Jones’s article, “Too Few Sources to Solve a Family Mystery? Some Greenfields in Central and Western New York,” which meets the Genealogical Proof Standard and the current genetic genealogy standards.
The Future of Privacy
In the Editors’ Corner of the December 2014 issue, the editors discuss the European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ) decision known as the “Right to Be Forgotten.” The decision, which would restrict historical records and genetic data, and control accessibility in the names of “privacy,” “erasure,” and “oblivion,” could change genealogical research forever. The decision impacts not only genealogists, but also the providers of information that genealogists work with so closely. Depending on changes and revisions, the decision could become a major concern for researchers.
Through the Editors’ Corner in the March 2015 issue of NGSQ, Jones and Byrne emphasize the significance of serious family historians who solve difficult problems—typically regarding relationships, identities, and events—using genealogical proof. These researchers rely on their education and skills to arrive at conclusions. Family historians who focus on solving difficult problems and who publish their conclusions are few in comparison to those who share information that has already been researched by others, or those who record memories of the living for future use. The editors point out the value of all family historians, but call attention to NGSQ articles, which are examples of how serious family historians have broken new ground by solving difficult genealogical mysteries.
The Editors’ Corner of NGSQ is not to be missed. What can genealogists learn from reading it? The views of the editors provide insight on big picture concepts relevant to the genealogical community—such as standards, records accessibility, and scholarship, to name a few. The thoughts and concepts that NGSQ’s co-editors bring to their readers should be considered by all genealogists who strive to produce quality work.