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Can Your DNA Test Results Be Considered an Artifct?

Thomas MacEntee, Genealogy Bargains
April 25, 2023

There are so many technological innovations that have become a part of family history research. These include online databases of vital records and other documents. Hand-writing recognition tools to help decipher and index census images. And personal DNA test kits to help understand your ethnic background as well as connect you with relatives you never knew before.

While the technology itself is innocent, how it is used opens up an entire Pandora’s box of issues and ethical questions. DNA test results are the most problematic since the data is, after all, the ESSENCE of a person. They are the ultimate identifier. They are unique just like you. And the same data that advances the ability to better understand ourselves, our heritage, and our family… can be used to implicate a person in a criminal cold case or discriminate against those with certain ethnicities or even specific medical conditions.

Should You Document Your DNA Test Results?

I’ve been testing my own DNA since 2008 when AncestryDNA was still in beta test mode. I’ve tested with all the major companies, and I’ve not only compiled the results, but I have also documented the process for each test.

As I tell my followers, genealogical and family history research is not just names and dates. I want to “fill in the dash” meaning what happens between the birth date and death date for a person. This includes me and my life story. I am leaving a legacy for future generations of family members as well as researchers. So, I definitely am in favor of sharing my DNA results and journey with others.

DNA test results can cause a major “shift change” in research for some. Each week it seems that there is a media story about an adoptee locating birth family, or a person discovering that their grandfather had other children that were not documented. With a belief that “knowledge is power” I always make sure that I put my DNA test results to good use, but responsibly. Once my results are available, I download the data and secure it. Going forward I make sure that what I share does not compromise my own privacy or the privacy of those with whom I connect.

What Should You Share and What Should You Keep Private?

Your level of sharing when it comes to DNA test results depends on your comfort level. Most of the personal DNA test kit vendors allow you to “opt out” of sharing results with other testers in order to look for a “match.” Some testers even go so far as using a fake name and a “burner” email address for anonymity. Remember: your data, your choice.

I feel comfortable sharing my ethnicity breakdown with family and even publicly. I also always opt in to the “matching” aspect at each DNA vendor with whom I’ve tested since it has led to many advances in my genealogy research.

I don’t share the medical and health related aspects of my DNA especially on social media. While here in the US health insurance companies cannot use DNA test results in determining your coverage, there is no law preventing life insurance companies from doing so.

Before I upload my data to a third party site like GEDmatch, I make sure to read the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy of the site. I also recommend signing up for email updates on these policies. I even go so far as setting up a Google Alert for the company so I can keep tabs on the latest news including anytime a vendor has been bought or sold, or even when they’ve experienced a data breach.

Best Practices for Getting the Most Out of Your DNA Test Results

Here’s my advice on the best ways to work with your DNA test results. The goal is to preserve and document the process and results in a way that still ensures your privacy and the privacy of others.

Record the Story

        • Write or record the story of why you wanted to take a DNA test, the process, and the results. Make sure you cover which DNA testing company you used, why you selected that company, how the test kit worked, and the anticipation of waiting for the results. Check out my AncestryDNA Artifct where I followed my own advice!
        • In your story also describe your reaction to the results. Were you surprised by anything? Did the results run counter to a family story or your genealogy research? Did the results put you on the path to a new research journey?
        • Use photos when possible including the test kit and a screen capture of the ethnicity results. Also consider sharing your haplogroup information so you can connect with others in the same group. However, don’t share detailed results including chromosomes and mapping and other information.

Test Again

        • Keep in mind that ethnicity results can change over time. What? That’s right, over time your ethnicity results may change due to more and more people testing their DNA. This means more results in the databases and a “refinement” of results. Example: Instead of just being Western European, you may see a breakdown of results listing percentage of French or German ethnicity.

Benefit from the Best of Social Media

        • If you are a social media user, remember to ask others with whom you “match” before you post results publicly. If you locate a new cousin, don’t automatically take a screen capture of the match listing the cMs (centimorgans) and their name. When it comes to DNA results it is better to ask for permission rather than forgiveness later. The Internet is a “copy machine” and once posted it is almost impossible to remove that information.

Get Artistic

One neat way to document and share the ethnicity breakdown based on your DNA test results is to create a colorful print that includes the world map marking the regions related to your background. Family ChartMasters is a US-based company that lets you enter your ethnicity information and generates an amazing Personalized DNA Ethnicity Chart measuring 20” x 24” and suitable for framing. The staff at Family ChartMasters are super helpful and can be reached via email at info@familychartmasters.com. Learn more >

Example DNA chart from Family ChartMasters

Conclusion

DNA testing is still an emerging technology especially for family history enthusiasts. Each week the media offers stories of incredible family reunions as well as the heartbreak of learning a truth that conflicts with the belief in a family story passed down for generations.

Remember that these are YOUR DNA test results and you have the ability to use them wisely. Do so in a way that you can share them as part of your legacy story yet still ensure the privacy aspects of such data.

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Eager for more? Connect with Thomas. You can also download his latest Genealogy Tech with Thomas cheat sheet.

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What's New at Artifcts
Collection Management Made Easy and Meaningful  

Artifcts thanks Sarah Reeder, Artifactual History Appraisal, for her contributions to the following article.

Reading time: 4 minutes

You may have one or many collections, intentional collections and accidental collections. Part of the fun of collecting is keeping track of it: Knowing what you have and what you’re still hunting for, what is sentimental vs. valuable, and what is okay to sell some day versus you’d prefer to pass down to someone special.

Short checklist about collections

 
 
We know a thing or to about accidental collections. Try out our free checklist available here.

If you were a professional archivist, librarian, or appraiser, you’d have a ready tool in your pocket to help manage your collections. It’s called a finding aid. But guess what? As you Artifct your collections, you are implicitly leveraging the best of finding aids, but in a friendly form that all can enjoy and benefit from. 

Here’s your peek inside the world of archivists where we show you how finding aids and collection management are made easy and meaningful with Artifcts!

What Is a Finding Aid, and Why Should You Care?

Unless you are a collections professional (archivist, librarian, appraiser…), the concept of a finding aid is likely foreign to you. For the longest time at Artifcts we even mistakenly referred to them as finding keys. Oops!

A finding aid is exactly what it sounds like: A tool that helps you locate items within a large collection in a fast and efficient way. A finding aid is a guide that describes the contents of an archival collection. A well-designed finding aid makes quick work of determining the topical relevance of any collection. After all, what good is a collection if discoverability hinders locating and using elements within the collection in the future.

Many of us have experienced the feelings of dread and being overwhelmed upon contemplating many boxes of inherited items that probably have something important contained in them but what and where? Imagine if you had a finding aid that told you exactly what was important and where you could locate it!

This is the magic of what finding aids do.

To a large degree, information within a finding aid is standardized per guidelines from the Society of American Archivists, “Describing Archives: A Content Standard,” better known simply as DACS. Standardization means a professional could work with or for any gallery, library, archive, or museum (aka GLAM) and their collections without much difficulty. They might simply display the information differently than one’s accustomed to.

A finding aid would have information such as: reference code, title, date, extent, name of creator, description, dates, and location. Does that list look familiar? If you Artifct, it should… 

For those of us who didn’t go to Library Science school, in our daily lives we probably do not want to think about taxonomies, metadata, bytes of storage, or even finding aids. We want to enjoy and share the meaning behind the items we’ve collected and ensure the stories and value behind them live on!

Enter Artifcts: Solving Age Old Problems of Finding Aids for Every-Day Collectors 

What we created at Artifcts is the solution to several age-old problems of finding aids in an individual and family-friendly fashion. And this means great things for you all!  While finding aids are brilliant tools for professionals, they are disconnected from how most of us describe and catalog the ‘why’ of our collections. We need more multitasking support in our lives.

Here’s how you can use Artifcts to preserve the history and the value of your collections beyond the constraints of traditional finding aids.

Use those QR codes.

If you were to work with a professional appraiser, archivist, or collections manager of any type, they will likely offer as part of their services a description of the collection and list organizing the inventory within your collection, a finding aid of some sort. But how do you link that list to your physical collection? At Artifcts, you can print a QR code or use Artifcts QR code stickers to link the physical and the digital.

music box with Artifcts QR code on the bottom of the base

 
 
An Artifcts QR code unlocks the story and value!

Record your stories.

Move beyond “scope notes” and “meta data” inherent to the archivist’s expertise – “This is a 19th-century {name of item}” – and breathe life, context, and personal meaning into the objects in your collection, e.g. “This is what Great Great Grandma brought from France when she moved to New York. And I’m giving it to you now.”  

Artifcts offers the options to share your story, indicate what you want to do with items in the future, and supply critical other information like where on earth you’ve stored the item in your home or elsewhere and the supporting documents (receipts, appraisals, and more). 

Connect the dots.

We typically describe each Artifct you create as connecting the dots, because only you know how photos of those specific items relate to shape a story or history. But we help you go a step further, too. You can use our @ feature to cross reference one Artifct with another, tying together pieces of a collection and pieces of a story that others may not otherwise realize relate.  

Description field on Artifcts with menu open showing options for linking with @

 
 
Simply type @ as you add the story or description to your Artifct to link to other Artifcts.

Leverage your community.

Let’s not forget the value in sharing and collaboration to learn more about items in your collections. Through Artifcts Circles and the option to give ‘Edit’ permission to other paid Artifcts members, you can crowdsource information from your loved ones and experts alike to capture important details about your collections that may add historical and family history information as well as increase the value, too. 

Preserve what is.

Add the photos, videos, and original documents you have to your Artifcts. There’s a spot dedicated to securely preserve each as is. No compression. No conversion. What you upload is what you can always download again, too.

 
 
 
 
In our spring 2024 series finale of Evenings with Artifcts, our expert guests shed light on they 'why' and 'what' of collections.

Ensure that if you work with an appraiser or other collections manager in the future, they provide documentary support through Artifcts, so that you can protect and share the value of your collections with friends and family as well as knock off those “to dos” to with your insurance company, financial planner, and estate attorney. 

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You may also be interested in these ARTIcles by Artifcts:

What to Consider When You Plan to Donate Art and Other Collectibles

From Rare Art to Family Heirlooms: Tips From a Master as You Consider Selling Your 'Stuff'

Everything You Wanted to Know About Appraisals but Were Afraid to Ask

How to Artifct that Collection

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Artifcts® Platform Now Supports Publishing to Custom-Designed Books with Partner Akin

Whether you think about photo books as unique and personalized gifts or dream of publishing a life memoir, we love our books! Today Artifcts announced a new partnership with Akin (https://akin.house/artifcts-books/) to offer simple, custom designed books to Arti Community members who wish to publish their Artifcts to books. 

You need only look at the explosive growth of photo book companies to support everything from build-your-own to instant print from Instagram or your phone to know how much we love to have and to hold books. 

Together, Artifcts and Akin have made it simple and affordable to publish a custom-designed, premium quality, personalized book of your Artifcts.  

“Not everyone enjoys spending hours combing through photos, uploading them into software, stressing over layouts, colors, and font choices,” commented Artifcts Co-founder Ellen Goodwin. “Our partnership with Akin means you can simply choose the Artifcts you want to publish, share them privately with Akin, and they’ll lay out the book in the template of your choice and ship it off to you! The whole process for our members takes minutes!” 

Artifcts excels in innovation that places the needs of its Arti Community members first. People expect to share their stories with meaningful context that includes photos, audio, and video. Artifcts has ensured this promise translates to printed books, too. Unlike a standard photo book, for every Artifct you publish, you can include a QR code that allows the viewer to scan and access additional photos and video tied to the story. Your book can come alive. 

“We don’t want our members to worry about the book creation process. We want people to enjoy spending time reliving their stories, and recording what they value most,” said Artifcts Co-founder Heather Nickerson. 

For more information, visit Concierge & Other Professional Services or review the FAQs available at Artifcts.com/FAQs. 

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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Not Sure What to Write? Tips from Author Jeff Greenwald

He's authored 1000s of articles, several books, and what's maybe the first known travel blog. And during the Fall 2022 series of Evenings with Artifcts Jeff Greenwald shared with us simple but powerful tips, and a healthy dose of perspective, to help us craft our own stories behind the objects of our lives.  

Watch the full Evenings with Artifcts event here.

  • It is hard to write about an object with no personal meaning but even harder when it has tremendous personal meaning. Bear that in mind and go easy on yourself. 

  • Start with something true. This is the trick to writing anything nonfiction. For example, start with a little line about where you got the object: “I bought this in a street market in Istanbul.” And from there go on to describe the scene a little bit and what happened there that connects you with the object.  

Start with something true.

  • Other starters for your Artifcts:  

        • Where were you when you acquired the object? 
        • Was it a gift? Who gave it to you? Tell a bit about them. What was your relationship with them that they felt they should give you a gift like that? “The moon Rocket was a gift for my friend Dave Mccutcheon, and he and I have been friends for many years and share a love of robots and spaceships and dinosaurs... all those things we loved when we were kids.” 
        • Why is it important to you?
        • What feelings does it evoke in you?
  • If a story comes to mind, you can just start jotting it down anywhere. Let your thoughts go where they will. It can be a collection of random thoughts that you can look at later and put together into some sort of a story structure. 

  • We all have stories. Writers block comes from our internal critic. It challenges you with, “Why would anybody want to read it? What could you have to say? What makes you think you're so great that anyone should listen to anything you're telling them?” You have to tell yourself, “I have a right to do this because I’m a human being with a story, and the story deserves to be told whether or not you, my internal critic, thinks that it does.” Push the internal critic aside. 
I’m a human being with a story, and the story deserves to be told.
  • If you value the stories and need motivation to begin capturing and preserving those stories with Artifcts, make a deal with yourself like Jeff did. Jeff made a pact to give away the objects once their stories were told. Maybe you’ll choose to Artifct twice per week. Or perhaps you’ll start with those items that are most meaningful to you.  

  • A bit of advice Jeff shared from esteemed author Kurt Vonnegut: Write your stories as though you are writing them for one person, as if you are telling this person each of the stories. It gives all the stories a similar tone, a singular voice. 

  • Always include when and where the object was acquired. These are important details.

  • Struggling with a title? Write out 10 of them. It will help you to start to shape your story, too.

Our stuff, the objects that we collect, that inspire us, they are really not what's important. We do not need to keep them. The only thing that is important are the stories, and the only way to keep the stories is to tell them.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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