Has the Genetic Genealogy community lost its GPS?
In recent weeks, there have been false statements posted about me on Benjaman Kyle’s personal Facebook page.
I cannot prove Mr. Kyle posted these statements himself—but let’s suppose he did.
On March 29, 2015, the following was posted:
I normally would not respond to such nonsense, but judging by the comments below his post, there are members of the genetic genealogy community who have a blatant disregard for the Genealogical Proof Standards (GPS) required of professional genealogists.
A few sample comments:
“Fitzpatrick may be able to muscle her way through a letter or on the Media because she is obviously feeling denied her rights to your DNA. This woman is a joke!”
“This should be about you and your well being, Ben, not a greedy “scientist”. She should be reprimanded and feel ashamed.”
“Regardless, we will not give up or let her and her attorney(s) scare us off your case.”
All of this would be funny, except for the way in which the community has embraced Kyle’s statements as true without review.
If Mr. Kyle is an amnesiac, he has a mental problem. If he is only pretending to be an amnesiac, he has a psychological condition. Why are so many genealogists jumping on Kyle’s bandwagon without questioning what he is saying?
To quote Judy Russell in a recent blog article, “Facts Matter”.
The wise genealogist should insist Mr. Kyle produce the name of the law firm he alleges I hired. A wise genealogist should also request a copy of the letter I supposedly sent to DNA volunteers to deter them from working on his case.
Kyle has not produced either of these items, nor have any DNA volunteers come forward claiming to have received such a letter.
A denial of service attack is a grave offense. In the US, a denial-of-service attack may be considered a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with penalties that include years of imprisonment. A denial of service attack occurs when a website is bombarded with so many incoming service requests, the site crashes. It describes an attack on a website, not a personal DNA account that is accessible only through login credentials.
When closely examined, Mr. Kyle’s claims of a denial of service attack on his DNA accounts are nonsense, but unfortunately those sympathetic to his alleged misfortunes have swallowed his technological gibberish.
Does Mr. Kyle have evidence a denial of service attack occurred, much less that it occurred from California, or do we simply take his word for it? Does Family Tree DNA and 23andMe support his claim?
Regarding Mr. Kyle’s statements about me changing the contact info on his DNA accounts to my own personal contact information—this did not happen, nor is it relevant.
- To log into a Family Tree DNA account, you must provide a kit number and password, not your contact information. In early March 2011, BK changed his password, after which I had no further access to his account.
- For 23andMe, an email address and password is required, but the email address is impossible to change in a practical sense. Changing the login email requires the user to reissue his sharing invitations and rebuild the information he has gathered from those contacts. BK has a large number of shares – has any of them heard from him during the alleged rebuild of his account?
- His Ancestry.com account is not an issue, because Ancestry did not offer autosomal DNA testing until after I was no longer actively involved in the research.
Does either Family Tree DNA or 23andMe have evidence Mr. Kyle’s DNA accounts were compromised?
Lastly, does Mr. Kyle or anyone else have evidence that I am writing a book on him, or that I am even interested in writing such a book? Note that I have not made any money on my research into BK’s identity. I have in fact lost money, through the countless pro bono hours I spent trying to help Mr Kyle recover his identity.
An individual’s DNA does not provide insight into his character
After five years of trying to discover BK’s identity using autosomal DNA from all three DNA testing companies, the genetic genealogy community has produced no epiphanies about his identity. The fact that BK has ancestry in the Carolinas was a discovery I made in 2010.
Do any volunteers have relevant information about BK’s identity other than he might be the great-great grandson of Archibald Aiken from North Carolina, or perhaps a descendant of Archibald’s father Ezekiel? Archibald had about 24 children from four known wives.
I am apparently the only person who has actively researched non-DNA aspects of BK’s identity. I tracked down and interviewed the owner of the Burger King and his wife who discovered BK nearly dead in their dumpster area. I have spoken extensively with the Georgia nurse with whom he lived for three years. I have spoken with law enforcement, including a former FBI agent who has worked on his case. I have interviewed the victim of a massive stroke who described how his brain healed itself. This stroke victim also had extensive experience with the homeless community. I learned a lot from this individual that educated me about the habits of the homeless. These factors and others led me to believe BK might have been homeless prior to his discovery in 2004.
In February, I expressed my opinion on 11Alive Atlanta. I stated:
“I am not sure whether Benjaman is interested in finding his identity or not.”
Thousands of hours of non-DNA research contributed to my point of view, yet it has led to a hostile reaction from the genetic genealogy community. They should instead be grateful that I expressed my opinion about the “big picture” and did not restrict my comments to an analysis of who shares segments with him on Chromosome 10.
The BK search angels automatically assume BK wants to return to his former life because he has been so cooperative with their requests. Have they considered BK may have other motives for cooperating?
These angels have produced very little, if anything, about BK’s identity over the last three years; add to that the two years of 23andMe autosomal results they inherited from me. Yet after years of fruitless sharing requests and “In-Common-With” reports, these angels are continuing on the same track. If BK is interested in returning to his former life, why does he continue to work with a group who has been unable to produce viable leads to who he is?
Frankly, if BK is truly interested in finding his identify, why hasn’t he asked a friend to drive him to North Carolina, so he can walk down Main St. in Rosman to see if anyone recognizes him?
On the other hand, after this blog post, let’s suppose something significant about BK is discovered by these angels for the first time. Will the wise genealogist applaud the find without digging into the suspicious coincidence?
Step back and look at the facts
Eleven years ago, BK appeared out of nowhere, apparently the victim of an attempted homicide. Since 2004 no one has come forward to identify him.
The FBI has no record of his DNA or his fingerprints. Attempts at facial recognition through various DMVs have failed. He has received national media attention through Dr. Phil. Nothing has come of numerous articles in major newspapers. He has been interviewed by NPR at least twice. Subscribers of Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and other social networks have also failed to identify BK.
As of 2015, we know nothing more about this man other than the clues I have uncovered.
So why take Mr. Benjaman Kyle’s word for anything? He could be in the witness protection program, or he could be a member of the Mafia. He could be the father of five children avoiding child support. He could have been beat up while on his “Meal on Wheels” delivery route, or could he possibly have been a member of a traveling circus? Or maybe he was involved in a drug cartel, and his associates are dead?
Of all the possibilities, should we assume the benign without ruling out the sinister?
Should we assume Kyle was a loving husband and father, who would feel happy to return to his family, but disregard the possibility he was a child molester? Mr. Benjaman Kyle could have been anyone. Isn’t it therefore wise to look beyond what DNA can reveal?
Should it be a concern to our community that someone who is such a blank slate is controlling the emotions of so many genetic genealogists at the expense of critical thinking? Have they become a rabid crowd, cannibalized by their starvation for excitement?
What happened to our Genealogical Proof Standards?