A few days ago, @Jan asked the question: "AncestryDNA is changing again? What's going on? (July 2020 edition)". In her question she said it was "a self-answered question intending to collect links to articles and blog posts explaining what's happening", and she then answered the question with links to some posts describing the issues.

I thought that was a very innovative idea, including information about genealogical issues. Once that gets indexed on Google, it would likely bring more traffic to the site.

Stack Exchange attempted several years ago to open up a Documentation component to its site. See: Documentation effort failed -- a few thoughts from a technical writer's perspective

I'd love to see a means by which we can get Genealogy & Family History Stack Exchange used by more of the genealogical community. Do you think we should add a Documentation component with question's like Jan's?

3 Answers 3


My own opinion is if we do this, we should be very careful.

  1. Stack Exchange policy is that questions and answers on all the sites are supposed to not be opinion-based, but should be answerable presenting all sides equally. The question itself in the title is fair and can be answered. But we have to be careful not to attempt to answer the question in the question but in the answer.

  2. I don't feel one-sided opinions should be included in these questions or answers. All sides of the issue should be included. Jan included an opinion (not hers) in her question which in the comments, I asked her to remove. She changed it, and we discussed in the comments the issue. That's another red flag that a question might not be suitable for Stack Exchange when there is excessive commenting going on back and forth, as this is supposed to be a question and answer site, not a discussion forum.

  3. The answers should specify the details and various repercussions of the issue at hand. They should not include just a list of links to other sites. The goal is to give people the answers at our site, not to make them run off to other sites for the answers. It's fine to use links to indicate sources for our information, but we've got to include the information.

I do commend Jan on her innovative thinking to add this question and answer it. Obviously, it is an issue that concerns her.

I'm not sure if questions in this format will work on our site. We definitely do not want to cause this to become a discussion forum.

So I'm on the fence with this.

  • If the consensus is that the Q doesn't meet the site guidelines, we can always delete it. I would like a chance to save the info locally before the Q is nuked completely.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 20:15
  • @Jan, I am in no way suggesting that your question be deleted. On the contrary, I am asking if we want more of these documentation-type questions in the future.
    – lkessler
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 14:28

A lot of what we do is documentation: somebody asks a question about how to do something, we document that for them and for others as a lasting reference. We even give advice on how to do X in product Y, hopefully with supplementary information about why doing it the recommended way is 'the best solution'.

However, Documentation with a capital D (writing technical manuals on how to use websites, services or products) isn't what we should be doing -- it's a waste of our effort and (as the article you linked to pointed out) unlikely to be more attractive to users than official documentation.

As context, I'm currently leading the migration of the content of a crowd-sourced KnowledgeBase that has built up over nearly 18 years to a new technical platform, and we've taken the decision that we will NOT simply duplicate what's in the relevant Help File -- we will point to the Help file where we can't add value, and even include the online Help file in results of searching our KnowledgeBase. Where we can add value we will do so, by expanding an explanation or providing a video tutorial, suggesting use cases for particular features or steering users to adopt a way of working that long experience has shown will avoid problems down the line. We're lucky that we have a good relationship with the relevant software product's developers, which makes it easier for us to be a complementary resource rather than attempt to compete with their documentation. Here at GFH we won't have that luxury...

On the particular question that prompted this discussion, I'm not convinced that this is a good example of a "Documentation" question, even if we were to include them. It's addressing a transitory phenomenon with content that won't be relevant in a few months time (it evens highlights it's transience by including the date in the title), and as such I don't think it's a good question.

I think it would be much better rewritten as a question about whether and when such small matches are useful, and how to effectively use them.

  • Prompted by your answer, I have now asked a question along those lines: genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/17622/…
    – lkessler
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 16:43
  • 1
    @lkessler Your question misses the big picture, in that AncestryDNA users are currently using these small-segment matches as a pointer to paper-trail research that they can't find via tree matches, because they haven't been able to build out that part of the tree yet to be picked up by the tree-matching system.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 16:53
  • 1
    @JanMurphy Isn't that part of an answer not the question?
    – user6485
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 16:59
  • @ColeValleyGirl The question and current answer only addresses whether the small segment matches are valid evidence for DNA questions. If I write an answer with the info in my comment, I'll be answering a different question than the one which was asked.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 20:12
  • "They then, after researching the other person's tree, find a common ancestor and a part of their trees that they both share. Can the DNA match then be used as evidence in concluding that the two of them share DNA that was passed down from that common ancestor?" seems to fit your big picture to me.
    – user6485
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 5:30

Let's unpack this a little.

As I understand it, the low-cM matches are of dubious value as far as genetic genealogy itself is concerned. The matches being discarded might be 50% valid, 50% bogus.

However, what I'm seeing across the blogosphere is that some users, understanding that the DNA match might not be valid, are still getting valuable clues because they're being pointed at users' trees that they might not have discovered through other means.

However -- the purpose of the question was not to debate whether or not Ancestry is making a mistake or not in discarding these matches. My purpose was to preserve the information about how to save wanted matches before they disappear.

In other words, I was expecting other community members to come along after me and write a better answer explaining how to save these matches, and perhaps explaining how to best make use of them once they were saved.

I also wanted to have an answer on the site already before we got hit with multiple questions all on the same topic.

I don't have any problem with edits to the Q or answers that are more in line with the site guidelines. I only wanted to have a place to preserve the links to the blog posts in a place where I could point people to it, if they asked me about it.

  • Expressing an opinion that they were doing a bad thing invites debate. But that's not the point of this meta. I don't think it's natural for the average person on Stack Exchange to do more than ask and answer questions. I think most people find it unnatural to edit other people's questions and answers, and some people don't have enough reputation to do so. This meta is asking whether we want to ask questions like this, that are more documentation (i.e. preserve the information) than they are Q&A.
    – lkessler
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 5:39
  • 1
    You were quite innovative in asking this question, but do we want to go this way, when there are so many bloggers and facebook groups that document and preserve this information, or do we want to remain in our niche which is a pure Q&A site? Like I said, I'm on the fence with this.
    – lkessler
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 5:39

You must log in to answer this question.

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