|Join us next Wednesday 16th March at 5:30 pm in IHR 202 for the next IHR Public History Seminar. We are delighted that Jerome de Groot will be joining us to discuss DNA in popular genealogy. Details below.
Double Helix History: the use of DNA in Popular Genealogy?
Dr Jerome de Groot (University of Manchester)
Genealogy is one of the biggest and most profitable activities on the planet. Generally undertaken via massive gateway websites like Ancestry.com (14 billion family history records; 60 million member trees) it involves investigators around the world formulating their ‘family tree’ and imagining their relationship to the past accordingly.
Increasingly these websites are adding a new tool to the researcher’s armoury: DNA sequencing. The armchair genealogist investigates their past by spitting in a tube. The creation of huge repositories of DNA databases allows for analysis to be undertaken that leads to ‘scientific’ speculation about the ancestry of the individual.
This paper investigates this intersection of genetics and popular narratives of the self/ the past.How is this science represented and understood? How, particularly, is it visualised? What does this mean for privacy, and the projection of the self online? What are the imaginative implications of sharing DNA data? Does DNA render an identity ‘outside of history’? Certainly it seems to allow for entire populations ejected from the archive to find their ancestors – Henry Louis Gates Jr. has claimed ‘we are able, symbolically at least, to reverse the Middle Passage’.