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PBS Special: Faces of America

January 6, 2010

Here’s a video that will probably remind every Adams of a typical day in Garry’s office:

The series premieres nationally Wednesdays, Feb 10 – Mar 3, 2010 from 8-9pm ET on PBS.

What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America wherein Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. again turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans.

I’ll be watching, if only to learn more about the genetic applications to genealogy. Just yesterday, I came across the Adams Surname DNA project, and my first thought flew to the wish we could have participated.

But the more I read, the more I wondered. There are families in that project who had old, rich Oral histories – that were completely destroyed by the results of DNA testing.

In the pool of genealogy, I’m swimming with water wings right now. As I work through Garry’s book and perform my own research, I begin to make a horrifying realization:

The potential exists for fundamental error and fundamental change.

In a field typified by the unreliable nature of sources, stories and individual memory, the opportunity for mistakes is compounded by the growing amount of information available on the internet – a medium just as prone (if not moreso) to inaccuracy and falsehoods.

I must be very, very careful.

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