Citing autosomal DNA test results from an online database

 
 
 
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Linda Johnson
Linda Johnson's picture
Citing autosomal DNA test results from an online database

I’d appreciate some help constructing a citation for the results of a pair of autosomal DNA tests undertaken to prove or disprove whether two living individuals are related to each other. The tests were conducted by FamilyTreeDNA, which has informed me that it does not have a recommended citation format.

I’ve studied the QuickCheck models for Professional Reports Genetic Testing, EE p. 171 (2007 edition) and Corporate Records Online Database, p. 165, and the examples in Section 4.10, Genetic Databases (Corporate Sponsored), pp. 183-184. The QuickCheck Genetic Testing model is for a single autosomal test but is in the form of an individual (paper?) report; the examples in Section 4.10 are for non-autosomal tests whose results were accessed via an online database. It seems advisable to me to follow the Section 4.10 examples generally, making whatever changes are appropriate due to the different type of test involved.

In the case I need help with, there are two autosomal DNA tests involved and the results are accessible only online, initially via a “match list” and then via a spreadsheet and a graphic presentation, the latter two of which show the two parties’ matching segments of DNA on each autosomal chromosome. (While neither test alone provides evidence of one party’s relationship to the other, the results of both tests are accessible through either one’s account.) There are no haplotypes or haplogroups to report.

I’ve identified the following citation elements, to which I’ve added my questions and comments, if any:

Corporate creator/author:  FamilyTreeDNA

Web site title:  (It’s no longer Mitosearch but rather the same as the corporate creator, so it’s not necessary to include the repetitious title.)

Database:  (The web site now has more than one database, the relevant one in this case being “Family Finder.” It includes the match list, spreadsheet and graphic mentioned above. Should I cite this as “‘Family Finder’ database” or as “‘Family Finder – Matches’ database and match list” and/or “‘Family Finder – Chromosome Browser’ database and graphic?)

URL/digital location:  http://www.FamilyTreeDNA.com

Date:  accessed 17 July 2012 (or could I move some of the information from the Database section here by saying “‘Matches’ and ‘Chromosome Browser’ downloaded 17 July 2012”?)

Item of interest:  (What should I put here?  Records are accessed by the kit number or user name plus the password of one of the individuals tested. However, the company cautions against sharing one’s kit number and password. And if I use the above “‘Matches’ and ‘Chromosome Browser’ downloaded 17 July 2012” option, could I include the Item of Interest details with that information rather than putting them here, separately?)

Based on the above, my tentative proposal for the first reference note is:

FamilyTreeDNA, “Family Finder” database, (http://www.FamilyTreeDNA.com : “Matches” and “Chromosome Browser” for [one party’s user name, which is her real name] downloaded 17 July 2012.)

I apologize for the length of this question, but I thought it would be more efficient to voice all of my major concerns at once. Thanks very much for any suggestions.

Linda Johnson

 

 

EE
EE's picture

EE users do seem to be vying today for the most complex database situations they can uncover!

You have honed in on the best model to follow, Linda: that is, EE 4.10. Your particular citation is complicated by the fact that the FT-DNA databases are dynamic ones, created on-the-fly for each customer, and by the fact that kit numbers and passcodes are needed to access individual data. All things considered, EE's recommendation would be something such as this:

"Family Finder," database, FamilyTreeDNA (http://www.FamilyTreeDNA.com : downloaded 17 July 2012), using the "Matches" and "Chromosome Browser" options to query for [NAME OF INDIVIDUAL]; results from this dynamic database require the private passcode and kit number of this individual.

Now for the explanations:

Publication titles: The standard practice, when citing an individually titled item (chapter, article, database, etc.) within a larger publication (book, journal, website, etc.) is to first cite the smaller item, in quotation marks as you have done above, then to cite the larger publication in italics.

Place of publication:  The standard practice for citing books is to place publication data (place : date of publication) in parentheses. EE follows that practice for websites. Therefore, the parentheses in the citation should be reserved for (URL : date of publication or access).

Miscellaneous: As a nitpicking point, there's a punctuation rule that's easy to remember: a comma never goes in front of an open parens. Like most punctuation rules, this one exists for a good reason; but that discussion has already been covered at EE's Facebook page. We need not repeat it.

The Editor

kathy_kult
kathy_kult's picture

Elizabeth,

I'm trying to figure out the citation to AncestryDNA's new test results. I think it works a bit different than FamilyTreeDNA, as there is no "Chromosome Browser," there's just a hit list of "matches," which then links to other members' family tree records. 

I'd like to cite a specific record from the hit list (not the query itself)... so I'm thinking I'd just cite the Ancestry Family Tree record. However, I'd also like to put "somewhere" in the citation that it was a hit from my DNA results, as I think that gives the citation a bit more certainty assessment weight. 

I'm thinking of citing the specific record like this:

"Public Member Trees," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 October 2013), "Butler, Hood, Marsh, Seals" entry for Bobby Lavern Butler (1930-1993); submitted by "ljbottoms." This family tree record was a 2nd cousin match in AncestryDNA results for Kathy Kult.

... or something like that. What do you think?

Citing truly is an ART!

 

Kathy Kult

Northern Illinois USA

EE
EE's picture

Kathy, the basic rule to apply is this: Cite what you use. If you are using the "Public Member Trees" database, then that's what you cite.

But given the notorious unreliability of so much of the data in those "trees," EE would argue that the evidentiary weight of your evidence would depend on much more than adding a comment to say "This family tree record was a 2nd cousin match in AncestryDNA results."  A person's "entry" on one of these trees typically carries multiple. and often many, pieces of information. Based on what you give, above, there's at least a full-name identification, a year of birth, a year of death, and—presumably—kinship statements about this person and others in the tree.  However, none of those "facts" would be documented in the AncestryDNA report that identified you as BLB's probable second cousin. 

It would be an effort fraught with risks to try writing a citation for a site or situation one has not personally studied. EE can only offer a generic observation here: If you want to cite the DNA evidence for the 2nd-cousin proposition, your citation should be to the genetic report that you downloaded at AncestryDNA. You will then need to craft a proof argument for your hypothesis or conclusion as to how you and BLB actually connect--with citations to the other evidence for each separate assertion that you make in your proof argument.

 

The Editor

kathy_kult
kathy_kult's picture

Ah, I see your point! I haven't cited a Family Tree record before, but was wondering how else to cite results from a DNA match. I see now that citing just the family tree record alone and mentioning the DNA match is not enough -- I need to make a case for it to prove the relationship. Thanks for the insight and setting me straight!

Kathy Kult

Northern Illinois USA

Linda Johnson
Linda Johnson's picture

Thank you so much for the suggested citation and related explanations. I hadn’t been sure whether to put FamilyTreeDNA before the database information as its creator/author or after it (in italics) as the website name since the two were identical. I see now that doing the latter improves the logical organization of the citation, as does reserving the parentheses for publication information only. I especially appreciate your suggestion for describing how the particular information being cited was accessed and informing the reader of the restrictions on that access.

 

Linda Johnson