I guess the larger question that these claims raise is what this has to do with genealogy? There are some areas of genealogy that I try to avoid writing about for the reason that they are emotionally charged issues with no clear relevance to most genealogical research. DNA testing is one of those areas.
My position on the relationship between DNA testing and genealogy is fairly simple. If your verifiable, source supported research takes you to a point where there are two or more possible ancestors and if you can verifiably locate descendants of the remote ancestors, DNA testing of the descendants may help establish which of the remote ancestors, if any, are yours. Of course, DNA testing is commonly used in both civil and criminal law cases to "prove" all sorts of relationships. In fact, all 50 states now have a law guaranteeing DNA testing to those convicted of crimes. See "With Passage of Oklahoma Bill, DNA Testing Guaranteed in All 50 States."
In the discussions about DNA testing related to questions raised in a genealogical context, I am not too sure that very many of the people obtaining the tests understand the results or even why the test may be helpful or not. The claims made for DNA testing are quite broad. Here is a sample claim:
Now, one simple DNA test can give you incredible new details about your unique ethnic origins. Recent advances in DNA science — plus the best of family history — mean you can make entirely new family history discoveries.I guess my question is, without the groundwork of detailed, verified research into the existing records, what does this really tell me or anyone else? Let's suppose I took a DNA test and it showed I had certain percentage of an identified ethnic group. Let's further suppose that none of my research shows that particular connection. What am I supposed to do about the DNA results? Here is another statement made in the context of an advertisement for a DNA company:
I am so happy to have taken the DNA test as it solidified my findings and gave us the TRUE ancestry of my family!With my own English, Scottish, Scotch-Irish, Irish, Welsh and Danish ancestry, I am probably related to a good portion of the entire population of the United States. I have thousands upon thousands of cousins. I don't really need DNA to tell me that I have cousins, I can walk into any gathering of people in Arizona and probably find someone I am related to.
One of my concerns in writing on this topic is that my own lack of perceived need for DNA testing will unduly influence my views on the subject. I don't see any particular downside issues with DNA testing other than occasional surprise ancestry and if you have the interest and the money to spend. Go for it. But don't stop doing basic research on your ancestry.