We are getting an awful lot of questions about DNA surprises. People who are adopted finding potential bio family, people who are discovering that their parentage or that of close relatives isn't what they were told, people questioning their bio relationships with close relatives, etc. For recent questions, it's about half of them. And I'm not counting all the DNA questions.

It's hard to say they're all duplicates of each other because each circumstance and each cM number creates a slightly different answer. Though really it's all the same: "Go look at cM numbers and test as many of your close family that will agree to it." One post or FAQ on how to do this would serve for almost all of them.

I'm not suggesting we do this (it's not like we have a lot of traffic as it is) but I wonder if it's something we should make some changes for. New tags, new FAQ posts, new pointers?

In addition to these are similar DNA questions that aren't as easily lumped together. Mostly, genetic genealogy is becoming the primary focus of this stack (and of many genealogy groups around the net).


Our last 50 questions go back to Dec 9, 2018.

  • 9 questions are for surprise DNA (a close family member the poster didn't know existed or the lack of an appropriate DNA match with a close family member).
  • 2 questions are requests for DNA relationship analysis for non-close family members.
  • 7 questions were other DNA questions.
  • 32 questions were not about DNA.

36% of questions in the last month and a half were about DNA. That should go up as people send back the tests they got for Christmas and start looking at the results.

18% of all questions, and 50% of all DNA questions, are "DNA Surprise" questions.

What are your thoughts?

Please join us on Chat to discuss details. I've done a rough draft of an canonical question for DNA Surprises. Please go to chat for the link and read it.

  • " Mostly, genetic genealogy is becoming the primary focus of this stack"... hmm. Not sure of this. If we treat the questions as the duplicates they are, is it still true?
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 10:56
  • 1
    I've created a chat room to discuss the detail creation of canonical DNA Q&As (not to create the text, but to sort out what we want to cover and in what structure). chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/88461/canonical-dna-questions
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:29
  • Edited to add a link to the chat room. chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/88461/canonical-dna-questions
    – Cyn
    Jan 18, 2019 at 17:44
  • @ColeValleyGirl and others. I've updated my post to add stats.
    – Cyn
    Jan 20, 2019 at 8:25
  • So, of the DNA questions, 50% were about surprise DNA and 50% weren't... and 64% were non-DNA. So not quite there yet for DNA being the site's focus?
    – user6485
    Jan 20, 2019 at 8:33
  • @ColeValleyGirl never said it was the site's focus, just that there were a lot of them. More than enough to justify the canonical question you and I are working on. I hope you'll be able to read it and I can check out your comments in the morning.
    – Cyn
    Jan 20, 2019 at 8:37
  • Sorry, I misunderstood ' Mostly, genetic genealogy is becoming the primary focus of this stack'. But yes, more than enough to justify the work we're doing -- am looking at your draft now.
    – user6485
    Jan 20, 2019 at 8:39
  • Well GG questions are a higher percentage of the whole after Christmas vs before it. So the trend is upward. But I didn't have the stats yet and was guessing as to the numbers. I will note that on GG discussion sites, very few questions are DNA surprises. I'd say no more than 10% and almost certainly a lot lower. We're getting a lot of people finding SE through Google, is my assumption.
    – Cyn
    Jan 20, 2019 at 8:42
  • Which is what we should be working towarfds, according to the Stack model.
    – user6485
    Jan 20, 2019 at 8:43
  • 1
    I'm unlikely to participate in a chat on this but when a draft canonical question appears here in a Meta Q&A or a final version in a Main Q&A then I would be sure to. Thank you and @ColeValleyGirl for taking this on.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Jan 21, 2019 at 5:05

3 Answers 3


I agree that we are getting a lot of questions about using autosomal DNA (usually tested by AncestryDNA).

I think in time we should try to write one or more canonical Q&As to make some of these questions duplicates of.

However, with our questions per day still far less than the 10 per day we need for graduation, I am hoping we will keep processing them more or less the way we are at the moment for two other reasons:

  1. To gather more examples for what may be needed in those canonical Q&As;
  2. To help guide the askers of those questions towards the need to seek paper records, where possible, to support/refute any hypotheses that they are developing

Unless a better Q&A emerges I suggest we use Determining likely relationship based upon autosomal DNA shared cM as the current canonical one.

  • I completely disagree that we should allow duplicates to artificially increase our -- we're not at risk of closure, so what purpose does it serve? genealogy.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2029/… is relevant especially the comment of somebody called PolyGeo: "we now have more freedom to maintain/raise the bar on question quality rather than needing to further assess how far we should lower it"
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 9:57
  • @ColeValleyGirl my comment there was in relation to site safety from closure (although that has never to my knowledge been considered for G&FH SE) whereas my comment here mentions site graduation. When the case for duplicates is strong I vote to close as duplicates. My point here is that I'm happy to see DNA questions broadening our potential community.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Jan 18, 2019 at 11:00
  • So am I, but not for it to be swamped with duplicates that aren't marked as duplicates especially as @Cyn says the answers get very repetitive.
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 11:01

I started a similar conversation in August via chat (including proposing two canonical questions: one about interpreting relationship estimates, and one about ethnicity estimates) but the discussion died a death (started at https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/46100494#46100494 and bogged down in whether we should handle the discussion about the content of the canonical q/a in chat or meta or both.

I still firmly believe canonical questions is the way to go. And would prefer to agree rough headings, content, approach in chat because it just doesn't work in meta which is still a Q&A facility not a discussion forum.

  • I've still got the drafts I did on relationship estimates...
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 9:56
  • The chat is "frozen" and also "unfrozen"... I don't know, I've pretty much never used chat. I can't see the previous conversation.
    – Cyn
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:03
  • @Cyn, I'm not keen on chat either but sometimes you need a discussion and not a Q&A.
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:09
  • I hear you on that.
    – Cyn
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:10
  • @Cyn, shall we start a chat then -- separate room? I think we're in violent agreement that it should happen, just need to thrash out some details -- what questions, what structure/scope of the answers, who's doing what bits?
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:12
  • I don't know how but please go ahead, and invite me.
    – Cyn
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:13
  • Cyn, have created chat room Canonical DNA questions -- go to chat from this room and you should see it (it's public, of course).
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:15
  • Not seeing a link...
    – Cyn
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:16
  • @Cyn can you see chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/48564396#48564396
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:17
  • Or chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/88461/canonical-dna-questions
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:29
  • Yes. But the first one doesn't have a way for me to reply. Which one am I using?
    – Cyn
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:40
  • @Cyn the second one is the link to the room -- the first one was a link to a transcript to see if you had access at all.
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 16:45

I could post a question asking:

My DNA results show a very close family match to someone I don't know, how should I proceed?

Then I could answer it comprehensively. And we can point questions like that to it.


My close relative did not show up in my DNA matches as expected.

Then answer that one.

Upvote: This sounds like a great idea.

Downvote: We don't have many questions as it is, let's not mark half of them as duplicates.

Comment: At will.

Alternatively: I can writeup the questions/answers (or someone else might prefer to do it) and we can point people there when they ask questions about their specific situations, but still keep their questions open because the pointer will not be everything answerers have to say.

  • 1. As I said in my own answer before this was posted, I believe canonical questions are the way to go.Unless a situation is very unusual, a canonical question will usually be a duplicate so it should be the way of handling most of these questions.
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:28
  • I couldn't read the details of your proposal (nothing in chat). I put this here to ask if I should go ahead and do this. I'm answering most of these questions anyway (though not the only person to do so).
    – Cyn
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:32
  • 2. Suggested questions: Interpreting relationship estimates (would wrap up not showing up in this as well); Dealing with sensitive DNA results (my sister isn't my sister; I think I've found my father -- not usually about understanding the results about about how to proceed); Understanding ethnicity estimates. 3. Presume these will be Community wiki? If so it doesn't matter who starts them off -- they'll get extensively edited anyway.
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:34
  • Some questions will best be answered by references to one or more canonical questions plus some situation-specific material so not everything will be closed as duplicate.
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:35
  • Chat: Main room starting early August. I've asked a moderator to reopen the conference room. I still think thrashing things out in chat is best -- all editing the same question could end up with people tugging things in different directions -- at least in chat, we could agree the set of questions and some outline answers and then individuals can fill in the detail?
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:37
  • On answering, you're getting to most of them first at the moment but others have and do join in -- hopefully lkessler will help with the canonicial questions.
    – user6485
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .