I know it has been a while since I last posted. I have been busy adjusting to graduate school, which I am double majoring in History (MA) and Archives Management (MLIS) at Simmons College. I have not forgotten or given up on my ancestral hunt. When I find time, I am still researching and have successfully found more stories and more names to add to my growing family tree. My son, when he is older, will be proud to know that he can name almost all of his 64-4th great-grandparents. However, during my schooling, I have been learning more about archives and archival repositories, both digital and physical. I have come to terms with the lack of scholarly writing on a few subjects that most interest me. More importantly, with the growing interest of ancestry DNA testing, I find myself asking questions and trying to connect my passions for archives, record keeping, and genealogy.
I am surprised that this concern has barely been questioned at least in some sort of article or blog. I read a post from the Legal Genealogist regarding DNA after a person has passed away. The post looked into extracting DNA from a deceased individual and sending it to some type of ancestral DNA testing company. The article references Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) as a company in which this can be done. But, I am more interested in understanding what happens to our DNA on these ancestry DNA databases after we die?
I believe that a digital archival repository should be created that houses the DNA of each individual. Tied in with the individual companies should be consent forms. Individuals should have the option to choose to have their test results permanently deleted, designate a certain amount of time, or have their results immediately transferred to the archival repository. The archival repository may have a physical location to house the consent forms, as well as the username and passwords affiliated with each database in which their results are held. Aside from the ethnic percentages, all other information is remained private. Proven descent to the individual or a valid research form will give a person access for a certain amount of time.
With this concept, the archival repository becomes accessible for genealogists and personal family historians, so that the DNA can be accessed to help dig further back. The people already in the databases are already giving consent to be known by their DNA matches, and they are not obligated to respond to any messages. I think this ideal repository allows the DNA of the deceased to be preserved for future use, while also holding valuable information. The DNA acts as a key to unlocking mysteries of the past.
This is all food for thought and perhaps one day, I will be the founder of such a repository, or perhaps one will open where this can become possible. For those who pass on before such a repository, if and when there is one, the descendants of the deceased should have the right to give consent.