Lauren Boyd McLachlan has been kind enough to agree to be the first person interviewed in my new series.
Question: Please tell me about yourself. What do you do for a living?
Answer: I am one of those who “flat line” on Interest Survey Tests. I have such a wide range of interest that there are no peaks and valleys on such tests. This has probably worked to my advantage as the economy has taken many twists and turns during my working life. I have worked at many jobs over the years – from Ferro-cementing a boat, to photography, accounting and project assistance, as well as self-employment. I worked for an Environmental and Geotechnical Consulting corporation, both as Office Manager and Project Assistant – supporting scientists, for 6 years. I believe in sound science. Self-employment allowed me to put my extensive skill set to work to earn a living. A virtual office manager – organization, support, computer and Internet, accounting, editing and more. I also had a client for whom I assisted with her Genealogy and helped her to found a Family Association.
Following a personal health issue, I gave up all stress and studied to become a self-employed California Certified Massage Therapist. This is, by far, the most rewarding career of my adult life.
Question: What are your other hobbies and interests apart from genealogy?
Answer: I have been a volunteer in many capacities since childhood Heavily involved in the Scottish Games Community, I have hosted my Clan’s tent at the Scottish games for more than 20 years. I lost count at over 200 times, and in 10 states and also in Scotland. History is fascinating to me. Archaeology, medicine, sciences, true adventure, mystery… All fascinating. I have been a voracious reader all of my life. I love to travel, but don’t as much as I would like to. Many of my travels are via reading. My taste in music range from Classical, to traditional, Hawaiian Slack Key, Celtic Rock… and beyond… Nature calls to me… Redwood trees and the ocean. Mountains or flat lands. I love to experience the flora and fauna. Oh, and yes. I am a Cat Lady. We have 3 felines inside and take care of a feral colony of 4 outside.
Question: What brought you to genealogy?
Answer: I have always been interested in Family History… My mother instilled a love of family in me and my father gave me my sense of history. It was not until I was an adult that I learned it was called Genealogy. What brought me to it…. I suppose my pregnancy with my daughter was a beginning. At least the seed was planted to learn more. Her father was adopted and although we had bits and pieces, that was a huge hunk of not knowing. When my mother was facing her illness that was terminal, a cousin reached out and shared genealogy. That, I must say, was the bug that really bit me. Those family group sheets she sent on binder paper held more information than the litany of names my mother had me memorize as a child. O’Connell, Murphy, Von Haegan, Mandary. Dad’s list seemed much shorter. Boyd, Nixon, Warden, Schroeder. Perhaps because with him they came out randomly and over time. Mom insisted I learn the surnames of the women she descended from. It took me until the mid-1990s to attend and join a Genealogical Society.
Question: What is your favorite part?
Answer: I love the puzzle. The figuring out. The chasing down of facts. The research. The victories. However, I really enjoy being able to see their stories come together. The gathering of details that help to reconstruct the lives of those who came before me. Not all information has been joyful. At least not to those who lived in their time. Yet, even the saddest news has brought me joy – as I have finally found out what happened to them and extend their lives in the rediscovering and remembering of them. In the teaching of their lives to the next generations. I can look backward in time with empathy for what they experienced. I love finding yet another generation, yet another detail. The serendipity of how the information comes to me. The graves found by asking “where are you?” Hearing in my head the voice of a long gone favorite relative reading the name of their mother while researching the census records sent chills of excitement down my back. Finding the newspaper article regarding the death of my great grandfather on the very day I received the news my brother refused a DNA sample that would unlock the brick wall to this bit of the family. It is still a brick wall, but there’s some solid information that was not known.
Question: How did you become involved in genetic genealogy?
Answer: 25 July, 2001 I attended a Marin County Genealogical Society [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Lecture on the subject]. Doug Mumma of the Mumma Project was the guest speaker. He was one of the very first to begin a Genetic Genealogy study. We learned quite a bit about his path to finding the right lab/company, the purpose and idea of a surname project and how to use it for genealogy. It was that night that our Clan Genealogist, Cal Boyd, and I determined we would begin a genetic genealogy project for the Boyd surname and shortly thereafter I began to push the topic to Clan Stewart’ Society in America to do the same. I took til June 2002 to get the Boyd project up and running. We were still among the first. The CSSA Stewart project came a few years later.
I began the Boyd-DNA list in 2002. It was, as I recall, the 2nd Genetic Genealogy list at Rootsweb.com. I established the Stewart-DNA list, which was either number 3 or 4 of the Genetic Genealogy lists at Rootsweb.com. The Scottish Clans DNA Project was begun in March 2002. I was asked by Founder, John A. Hansen to become a Team Member later that year. I took over administration of the Scot-DNA list at Rootsweb.com in October 2002. I have been involved as a Team Member nearly since inception. The Project changed Administrators when John A. Hansen retired. The project then was turned over to Dr. Bruce Durie and is under the auspices Strathclyde University, Glasgow. Alasdair MacDonald continues as the Lead Project Manager. The name became the Scottish DNA Project. I continue as one of the Project Administrators.
Question: The need for consumer genetic testing standards has been a topic for years now. To what extent do you think government regulation is needed?
Answer: The public should not be prevented from independently testing for genetics. Government regulation should address the fact that a person owns their DNA and should not be blocked from testing ANY segment of it, nor obtaining the raw data from their tests. As with all laboratory testing, three should be a minimum standard to meet, to ensure clean environments and the usual scientific chains of handling. This is not to say that an individual must seek a medical professional to perform the sampling. Simply that once the sample is submitted to the testing company, the usual steps be taken to ensure quality controls. We should have the same access to testing our DNA that we have for a water sample, for example. Identities should be safeguarded and individuals should be protected from misuse of their samples and results.
It infuriates me that we have this tool available and a company has managed to Trademark the rights to testing/results regarding the BRACA genes and charge enormous fees. This should not be allowable.
Question: Do you feel that the responsibility for consumer education lies with the testing companies, the citizen science community, or the consumer?
Answer: Actually, a balance of all three. First and foremost, a consumer should follow the old adage “Caveat Emptor.” Do the research. Look at the various testing company websites, ask the community their experience. Make an informed decision.
Question: What DNA tests have you taken?
Answer: Being female, I do not have Y-DNA, so can’t take that set of tests. Early on – as they were available, I took the mtDNA test via FTDNA. I have also had an autosomal DNA test that was a Christmas gift via 23&Me.
Question: Have you tested your family?
Answer: Family members have taken autosomal DNA tests via 23 & Me I wanted to test my brother for Y-DNA,but he refused a sample before he died. There are no other known males to test for that line as he was the last.
Question: Have your or your family’s test results ever been a surprise?
Answer: Not yet. However, I have had a couple of surprise family members… extended cousins. Our Clan Genealogist, as well as Bennett Greenspan of FTDNA turned out to be mtDNA cousins. None of us can begin to have a paper trail to connect us. Similarly, there was a surprise with the Autosomal testing. I discovered that I am a cousin – 4 or 5 generations apart from each other – with a man I had corresponded with for many years via the Boyd list at Rootsweb. Boyd is not our connection. We have not found the exact connection to a surname yet. However, we both had Ancestors in New York in the early 1800s. The connection may go back to England. Well, then there is the bit that I am 2.x% Neanderthal. So is my daughter – only she has a higher percentage. That means her father was also. He was adapted and died before DNA testing existed in the public market. Had it not been for DNA testing, none of this would ever have come to light.
Question: Has genetic genealogy helped you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery?
Answer: Not yet as I don’t have a Y-DNA sample to help me through my surname brick wall. However, as more and more people test and share the results through the various websites available, I have confidence, I will yet meet that cousin. I am still chasing paper in the meanwhile and decorating my brick wall as much as possible in hope of a break through.
Question: Do you have advice for someone starting out in genealogy or genetic genealogy DNA?
Answer: Yes, to document, document, document. Cite and record your sources. Keep a list of what you have researched and where. Do not add someone else’s work to your computer file unless and until you prove out the sources as much as possible. Go to the original source whenever possible. Don’t trust the shaking leaves on popular websites, unless they bring you to an actual graphic image of a document. Even then, be cautious about adding the data to your file.. Verify details. Do not dismiss family legends, but also don’t’ accept them unquestioningly. They may prove false, but may have kernels of truth in them that are just a bit different than expected. Interview your family in a kind way before you lose the opportunity. Family friends that have been around “forever” may hold a key to your mystery. Don’t hold on to the notion that your family always spelled their name a particular way. Test your family members’ DNA before you know longer have the chance. Honor the trust placed in you with regard to family secrets. Only share when those involved are no longer living and risk pain from the knowledge they asked you to keep confidential is no longer a risk for them. Join your local Genealogical Society. Support their work. Ditto those in the area of your research. Be respectful to others who are researching your lines or surnames.
Question: What do you think the future holds for genetic genealogy?
Answer: Tons! I have lectured on both. However, the most important thing I can stress is as one of the Pioneers in Genetic Genealogy, I can say, quite safely, that there will be leaps and bounds we can only dream of now. As the genetics are defined and explored farther, we will discover and unlock more knowledge of our bodies’ secrets and those of our families. Eventually, we may be able to see how all of human kind is tied together. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but, it is possible. Only 15 years ago we thought 12 marker tests were fantastic. Now we have 111 marker tests that more clearly define relationships. Autosomal DNA has pinpointed the exact relationship with my closer relatives – even though our tests were not submitted as having a connection to each other in advance. It can only get better as the science is refined and expanded. We will have a better understanding of our family medical histories and may be motivated to take better care of our own health, or know we may not share their same fate. Now, if we could only do something about the documents that did not survive through the ages…. Or the 1890 US Census.