Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review – The Lost Family

I knew when I first heard about Libby Copeland’s book, “The Lost Family”, I had to read it. It has been on my must read list since last year. I finally got around to buying, and reading it, this month. What can I say, the list of books that I want to read is at least a mile long!

The Book

The Lost Family takes a look at genetic DNA testing and the many different outcomes that may come from it. The book covers from the time DNA test first hit the genealogy scene to what the future holds. Even while diving into the scientific aspects of DNA, Copeland continues to weave the emotional, real-life stories throughout. The Lost Family really makes you pause and think about all the possible outcomes and effects of DNA testing.

I thought that I was an early tester when it came to DNA. However, Copeland goes into such a detailed history that even the most seasoned genealogist will learn something. This book does a wonderful job at taking the reader step-by-step through DNA testing. It never gets boring. For a book that detoured into scientific jargon from time to time, I found it relatively easy to follow.

The Surprises

I really picked up this book to read in order to recommend it to others. I really did not expect to get anything new out of it. I am happy to say that I was wrong. Seeing the fallout of DNA results from real people and real experiences was eye-opening. One story in particular (don’t worry, no spoilers) kept me hanging on the edge of my seat. I think as genealogist, we get so wrapped up in DNA and our matches that we sometimes lose the mystery aspect of the process. Copeland does a great job of taking us on a DNA journey.

Aside from the personal DNA stories, I was really surprised at how the section regarding DNA and race/ethnicity hit me. Whenever I discuss DNA testing, this subject is usually my soapbox. I think DNA is a great way to open our world, and our minds, to other ethnicities and how we connect. Copeland wrote about, and gave facts about, aspects of ethnic identity that I had never thought about.

To attempt to read the past through the genes, you need more than knowledge of science, statistics, and algorithms. You need to understand history, and history is profoundly messy.

Libby Copeland “The Lost Family”

The Verdict

If you have ever taken a DNA test, or have considered taking a DNA test, you should read this book. To say it is eye-opening would be an understatement. My only issue (and for me, it wasn’t that big of an issue) is when Copeland takes a deep dive into the science of DNA. I love science and even for me it became a bit dense. It also seemed to get a bit repetitive when talking about the technical side of DNA. It is not so big of an issue that it would cause me not to recommend the book. I just want you to be aware of that part of the book.

All in all, I would give this book an 8 out of 10. You should read for the DNA history, learn the DNA technicalities, and stay for the DNA stories. For the conclusion alone, you will not be disappointed.

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