Genetic genealogy forums online — Facebook groups; Anthrogenica; 23andMe community, etc — is the layperson's vast laboratory where we hash out our results, research, discoveries, journeys, family heirlooms, difficulties, disappointments and debates. It's a social place were we can obsess over DNA with lusty abandon.
But sometimes a few bad apples spoil the whole experience. Some people's obtuse behavior in genetic genealogy forums online (GGFO) can be disruptive, offensive and lead to detriment and disaster. So in the interest of fostering better behavior, communication, cooperative collaboration, as well as a safe and objective environment to learn, teach and/or exchange knowledge, I came up with these 52 golden GGFO etiquette rules:
[King Genome's Tip: Download a copy (pdf) of Genetic Genealogy Standards and use together with this list.]
1. When you first join a GGFO, BEFORE YOU POST ANYTHING OR COMMENT you MUST take time to (a) read the forum's rules AND (b) review what others post, including topics and comments. If you're unsure of what to post then ask an administrator/moderator for assistance. If you don't agree with the rules of the forum then leave immediately.
2. If you believe genetic genealogy is a fake science or you have no trust in DNA testing then please do us all a favor and remove yourself immediately. You should know that no matter what you believe, DNA is a real, evolving and advancing science and GGFO are designed to facilitate the progress.
3. Genetic genealogists and traditional genealogists should not wage a war with each other in a GGFO based on which method or field is better. Both are inextricably intertwined and should be used together — along with your collaborative efforts — for the best results.
4. Absolutely NO political and religious badgering, soapboxing, hate-mongering, race baiting, trolling or any such capricious behavior. GGFO are unequivocally not the place for such discourse and banter. Go blow your steam off somewhere else.
5. Stop misusing socio-cultural ethnic labels and antiquated racial social constructs as genetic genealogy and population genetics terms for ethnicity. There is NO such thing as "African-American DNA" so avoid using the term. You should not be referring to African-Americans as Negroes except in a historic context. Also do not use Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid to make racial distinction between populations or ethnic groups. Yes, it is opprobrious. GGFO are not breeding grounds for racism, prejudice, bigotry miscegenation, superiority complexes, or ignorance.
6. Never romanticize or minimize slavery, the Holocaust, Trail of Tears, or other horrific historic events because it's offensive. If you have a reasonable inquiry or discussion point around these events, be sure to carefully think about what you post before you hit that "Submit" button.
7. If you're in a private, secret or closed GGFO, do NOT publicly share or post on social media other people's posts, photos, DNA results, comments or any personal information, etc, without that person's expressed permission — actually you shouldn't even ask. Private, secret or closed GGFO privacy settings are that way for a good reason.
8. NEVER discuss living people's personal identifying information (ie name, address, city, birthday) within or outside of a GGFO. There are many crazy people and identity thieves lurking around, and we don't need you helping them out.
9. If someone reveals that he/she is an adoptee, foundling, foster child, donor, etc in a private, secret or closed GGFO, please refrain from revealing any of this information or "outing" the person publicly. Further if the this person posts information or photos about a non-biological relative, it's NOT up to you to discuss their relationship or adoption status, nor make any biological distinction between their relatives. It's tacky, spiteful and frankly none of your business.
10. If someone reveals that he/she is adopted or looking for a biological relative in a GGFO do not insert yourself into the situation by playing match-maker unless you're a qualified professional or search angel. Your heroic efforts may actually cause irreversible detriment to the situation.
11. If a GGFO member posts something about their new relatives/genetic matches, you must refrain from asking this GGFO member about contacting their new relative/genetic match, or to provide you with the relative/match's name, GEDmatch kit number, or any information that the GGFO member did not provide in the original post. Your overzealous behavior is meddlesome and could scare off people new to the world of genetic genealogy.
12. Respect copyright, trademarks and ownership rights of images, content and resources when posting in a GGFO. Give credit and recitation where necessary or as mandated by law for any content you post. You could get in a lot of legal trouble for infringing upon someone's ownership rights.
13. Do not inundate GGFOs with a whole bunch of posts about yourself, your family, or your DNA results. Also don't make everyone else's topic about yourself, your family or your DNA results. Doing so makes you appear either rude, narcissistic or psychotic. The hard truth is people are usually tired of you, your family and your DNA results after you initially post about them. Also keep posts about your family, DNA results, photos, genetic relative matching information and related inquires confined to ONE topic.
14. Do not join a GGFO with the expectation that its members or administrators will solve your mysteries, or act as a personal genetic genealogy servant for your every question. In general this behavior turns others off. No one is obligated to help you.
15. Do NOT volunteer the services of those with genetic genealogy expertise nor refer people to them without first contacting them for availability via private or business e-mail. If you do refer someone please be sure their inquiry is clear, they provide any valid evidence to buttress their claims, and perhaps most importantly if the expert is available and charge fees.
16. Do not attempt to chastise an administrator or moderator publicly. If you have any feedback or concerns about the GGFO or the way a GGFO is run, please send the administrator or moderator a private email or message.
17. Make sure your questions and inquiries are well thought-out and expressed clearly. Do not write in a vague, nondescript or rhetorical manner. Think before you post dammit.
18. Do NOT "shout-out" members in a GGFO (ie tagging their name in a post) — especially administrators, moderators, possible relatives, genetic genealogists, scientific experts, etc. It comes across as demanding, pushy and rude. It's more proper to contact the person by private message or e-mail first. If you don't get a response then you must realize that some of these people are extremely busy. Just be prepared to get no response at all and to find your answers another way.
19. If you post other people's DNA results in a GGFO, please REDACT the person's name, photo images, and GEDmatch kit number unless you have expressed permission to do otherwise by the owner of the results. You MUST respect people's privacy.
20. If someone in a GGFO refers you to a valid study, blog or link, please take time to read the information before responding again, unless you've questions about the material. Otherwise you're really being unfair to everyone else, and people will soon be unwilling to help you. In genetic genealogy, reading and studying is fundamentally required.
21. If you've expertise in a certain area of genetic genealogy, don't bring condescending, bullying, narcissistic and obnoxious attitudes into a GGFOs. Members could be at different levels of proficiency and expertise so please criticize constructively, and be aware of your tone. Otherwise people will eventually start ignoring you even if you're correct.
22. Do NOT pretend to be an expert in a GGFO or try to misapply expertise as your own, even if you have scientific expertise in another field. Do NOT borrow people's information posted anywhere and claim it as your own. The genetic genealogy experts have been at this for a long time, and they KNOW when you're pretending to be something that you're not. Everyone starts somewhere and works up from there. Pay your dues!