What Good Is DNA Testing?

I don’t understand this big obsession with DNA testing.  I watch the commercials on TV for the different DNA testing services and I wonder what the people that pay their hard-earned dollars hope to accomplish.  Now, as a family researcher/genealogist I am of the old school.  I believe that the only proper was to do family research is through diligent research and researching actual genealogical documents.  A paper trail of birth certificates and marriage licenses will do more to prove a family lineage between a specific person and their great-grandfather than a DNA test.

That being said, someone please enlighten me why people searching for their family history think that a DNA test will give them their answers.  I’m not a geneticist but my understanding is that the results would be difficult to validate between 2 individuals unless they are in close proximity within their family tree.  The farther away your family tree branches are away from each other the more “diluted” the results would be.    So, first cousins would be a closer DNA match than say cousins that are 5x removed.  I also understand that the further away the “common” ancestor is from the 2 people in the same family forest (meaning that the people are not on the same family branch with each other) the less meaningful the DNA results are.

Lastly, how do DNA tests determine the actual relationship between the 2 individuals?  I know that DNA tests are useful in paternity cases and helping adoptees locate their lost close relatives and birth parents.  The DNA results may show that you both have your family origins in the same region but does that prove you’re related?

I have more questions than answers when it comes to DNA testing.  And those questions don’t include the privacy and monetizing issues associated with handing over your most unique personal identifier.

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