Modern Software Experience

2010-08-29

genealogy framework

traditional genealogy

Fan Chart: Traditional genealogy: losing your roots

Traditional genealogy is dishonest. Traditional genealogy is built around the pretence that the official records document the biological genealogy. Traditional genealogy pretends that the biological genealogy and official genealogy are the same.

traditional genealogists

Many genealogist know that this isn't right, yet ignore the issue. That is not just because they were taught traditional genealogy, or because there is no second generation software that supports the Genealogy Framework yet. Many traditional genealogist prefer to ignore that issue because they do not want to confront the truth that official records aren't biology.

Few people are eager to learn that their official father or grandfather isn't their biological one. It is a possibility that genealogist should be willing to face, but instead many shy away from that idea, and choose to pretend the issue doesn't exist, precisely because they are genealogist. Many people would be upset to make such a discovery, especially within recent, still living generations, for all the obvious social and emotional reasons.

For genealogists, there is another reason to deliberately ignore the issue; if you discover your grandfather isn't your grandfather, then you can no longer claim his ancestors as yours either. Acknowledging that there is no connection would imply losing those roots, and with nothing to replace it, a gaping hole in the fan chart… 

Classical Genealogy Framework

genealogyrecord types
family historyall records
legal
genealogy
non-vital records
official
genealogy
vital records
biological
genealogy
phenotype
genetic tests

The Classical Genealogy Framework makes it crystal clear that official records aren't biology. It acknowledges the existence of three genealogies - biological, official and legal - and associates each type of record with a type of genealogy. The official records are associated with official genealogy, because those records can be used to prove an official genealogy. The official records are not associated with biological genealogy. In fact, in purely classical genealogy, there are no records associated with biological genealogy. The only fact associated with biological genealogy is phenotype.

Without records that can serve as proof, it is impossible to create a biological genealogy. We always knew that, the framework makes it explicit; official records do not tell you who your biological ancestors are. That phenotype can be used only rubs salt into that wound; after all, phenotype alone isn't nearly enough to prove a biological relationship, but can easily be sufficient to disprove it.

The age of purely classical genealogy is behind us. Affordable DNA tests can provide the records needed to prove or disprove a biological relationship.

what to record

Traditional genealogy pretends that the official parents are the biological parents. Traditional genealogy has no rules for dealing with cases where the official and biological parents are different. In traditional genealogy, the difference does not exist. Proof that the official parents aren't the biological parents does not fit into that simplistic world view.

Traditional definitions of genealogy focus on blood relationships, so it is not surprising that traditional genealogist, when confronted with another father than the official one, decide to replace that individual and all his ancestors, effectively throwing away the alleged father and his ancestors as if he does not matter anymore.

Consistency demands that when they learn that some man isn't the father of a child, but do not know who is, they remove the alleged father and all his ancestors, leaving a gaping hole in the fan chart.

Fan Chart: Biological Discovery in the Genealogy Framework

The Classical Genealogy Framework does tell you what to do when you discover that an official parent isn't the biological parent. Just as importantly, it tells you what not do. When you discover that an official father isn't the biological father, he and his official ancestors do not become irrelevant. You do not throw the data on these individuals away, and you do not disconnect him from the genealogy.

The illustration shows how identification of a biological grandfather affects the biological and official genealogy; the biological genealogy (light green) is extended with that grandfather, the official genealogy (light blue) remains unaffected.

The identification of a biological parent different from the official one isn't a loss at all, it is a gain.

The identification of a biological parent different from the official one isn't a loss at all, it is a gain. That is how should be. After all, you did not lose any of the information you had already, you gained additional information. The unchanged official chart and the updated biological chart reflect that reality.

keeping all data

There are many good reasons to keep the data around. First of all, you probably had to build that part of the genealogy to make the discovery in the first place, and that makes it part of your proof. Secondly, although he may not be a biological ancestor through that line, he is still ancestral family, he is part of the family history.
Thirdly, the discovery that he isn't the biological father does not change his status as the official father. Even legal proceedings and decisions do not change his status as the official father; the original birth certificate has his name, and that makes him the official father.

stable backbone

The official genealogy is the stable backbone of genealogical research.

The Classical Genealogy Framework does not deny any of this, but embraces all of it. It distinguishes between the biological, official and legal genealogy and expects you to document all three.
The official genealogy is the stable backbone of genealogical research. Biological discoveries affect the biological genealogy, but not the official genealogy. Legal changes affect the legal genealogy, but not the official genealogy. The official genealogy is build from official documents, and only changes in the rare cases that the official documents are corrected or replaced.

That a genealogy needs be corrected or partly erased in the face of biological discoveries is traditional genealogical thinking. The Classical Genealogy Framework upholds the official genealogy as the stable backbone of genealogical research. Legal discoveries do not change it, but make the legal genealogical richer. Biological discover do not change it, but extend the biological genealogy.

Biological proof does not affect the official genealogy negatively, it affects the biological genealogy positively.

The framework does not assume that the biological genealogy is identical to the official genealogy. The framework is categorical that the official records cannot be used to build a biological genealogy. The framework assumes the only correct starting point; the biological genealogy is unknown. Observations about phenotype may provide some negative information, a reason to research a particular connection, but you start without any positive information. The biological genealogy remains unknown until you come up with some biological proof.
When you find some biological proof, you do not need to scrap any research you've already done. You do not throw away a part of your official genealogy, but build a part of your biological genealogy. of Biological proof does not affect the official genealogy negatively, it affects the biological genealogy positively.

future

widening circles

Searching in ever-widening circles is the traditional approach to identifying potential parents. When that potential parent lived many generations ago, you may need to do research into their descendants to identify living people to test against. That is a lot of work, and a costly bunch of tests for an uncertain result.

fully documented

The eventual future of genealogical is a world where the official genealogy is already fully documented, and everyone has their genome sequenced at birth. With all that data already available, research into biological genealogy will be a lot easier than it is today. In fact, it is likely to become largely automated research even before all of that is in place.
It is already possible to take a shortcut, by comparing data against existing DNA Surname projects and genographic databases.

researching

The Genealogy Framework tells you to record everything in the right genealogy. The framework does not only tell you what to record or how to record it, it also guides your research.

Research into a biological genealogy starts with the official genealogy. The framework distinguishes between biological and official genealogy because they are not same, but they are still likely to correspond to a large extent. The framework rejects the baseless assumption that official relationships are sure to be biological relationship, but research using the framework embraces the very reasonable notion that official relationships are putative biological relationships, and then sets out to proof or disprove each relationship.

You research biological genealogy by first building an official genealogy, and then performing tests to find out whether the official relationships are biological relationships. Most tests will confirm that the purported biological relationship is biological, enabling you to extend your biological genealogy with yet another relationship.
Some tests will reveal that an purported biological relationship is false. That ends research through that specific official line, but does not need to end the biological research.

widening circles

When it turns out that an official parent isn't the biological parent, it is time to look at the legal family tree and look for a likely parent. First of all, by double-checking and making sure that official genealogy is correct. Secondly, by considering adoptive parents. People often adopted out of a sense of familial duty, and would probably want to adopt their biological children. There may even legal records of a custody battle that point towards the likely father of a child. Thirdly, by looking for anyone else that might the parent, for example an oldest son. Keep it mind that the mother may have chosen the child's name to point to the actual father.

When looking through the official or legal genealogy does not turn up the biological parent, it is time to consider the family history. Who else lived in the same house? Who left for unknown reasons, perhaps because of a public scandal? Who lived next door? Who probably came by almost every day?
Did the mother work as servant for a particular lord? Which adult in the village has the same first names as the child? Questions like these can identify likely parents.

Search techniques like these for identifying likely parents are not new, but have already been used and proven to be quite successful. The basic idea behind all of these is that the biological parent is likely to be close in both space and time, and that you stand a good chance of identifying that parent if you search in ever widening circles. The framework aids the search process by providing three well-defined circles to search in sequence; the official genealogy, the legal genealogy and the family history.

software

second generation software

Research into biological genealogy demands second generation genealogy software, software that is firmly based on the Classical Genealogy Framework. It is hard to research biological genealogy if your software does not distinguish between biological, official and legal genealogy. The software needs to understand that official records aren't biological proof, and treat genetic tests as the proof they are.

right tree

It is important to always use the right tree. Each individual has a biological, official and legal genealogy. When you research an individual's biological ancestry, you use that individual's official and legal ancestry to do so.
You start research into biological ancestry with the official tree for the individuals whose biological ancestors you hope to identify. When you identify a biological ancestor different from the official ancestor, further research into biological ancestry continues with the official tree of that already identified biological ancestor.

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